Soaring over the heads of excited by-standers are Giant fierce faces brightly painted on 5 by 7 meter paper kites. This is a festival held each year in the beginning of June in the Shirone region of Niigata City, Japan.
This festival has been held nearly every year for several hundred years. In face statistics for nearly 100 years of these battles are available online!
Like with many timeless traditions, it’s conception was a pure accident.
According to the legend, two villages stood on opposite sides of the river. One day, for reasons that are not entirely clear (although some believe some celebration was afoot) youngers of one village flew a giant kite. The wind however, was not friendly to the celebrates and blew their huge creation across the river, where it tumbled through the air, damaging some roofs and gardens. The other villagers took action, by making their own kite, sending it across the river in an attempt to cause similar damage.
Thus, a tradition was born!
In modern day
Over the years, from the chaos of constant retaliations order emerged. Teams were created, rules were agreed upon, and the foundations of an amazing festival were laid.
The two sides still fly kites at each other, but instead of aiming for property damage, the goal is to simply tangle your kite with your opponents. For this, each team uses specially guarded techniques to hang the ropes and weight their kites. The speed and enthusiasm of the runners (several dozen are required to get each kite in the air) also plays a yet role.
Once the kites are in the air, and (hopefully) tangled, the second stage begins – an enthusiastic tug of war. Each team has only minutes to secure victory. To win they often use various techniques (from simple calls to action to loud whistles) to encourage onlookers to take a turn at pulling the rope and to maximize the energy by working together. In the end, the ropes don’t always break. In fact, more often not, there is no satisfying crunch of bamboo or ring of the snapping threads. However, when they come, it makes the moment that much more special!
- Festival name: Giant Kite Battles
- Timing: Beginning of June
- Location: Niigata City, Shirone Area
Jenya Yuss came to Japan in 2015 and has not left since. She has lived in Nagoya, Ishikawa and finally settled in Niigata. She loves to be in nature and enjoys all types of outdoor activities.
She likes to write about history and culture, but really would tackle any topic!