Whew! The April travel frenzy is over! Four continents -- France, USA - South Africa (by way of Germany), USA, and Japan... Airline pilots are not allowed to fly as much as we have this month! And trust me -- while you may not actually live longer sitting endless hours in an airline seat, it will *seem* like you have lived longer.
Still, it has been a wonderful month spent in both new and familiar places with new and familiar friends. We are weary, but quite well.
We're just home from Uchinada. This Japan Kite Association annual gathering is a kite flying frenzy. Most of the "traditional" festivals of Japan focus on one geographical area and one type of kite. But the JKA festival draws fliers and kites from around the country. This year, 59 teams were present.
We only had one problem -- ame. That's the Japanese word for rain.
But when you've been flown around the globe to fly kites, you fly kites! So we dragged our bags out in the drizzle and did our best to put on a show.
We'd packed one bag for the trip, knowing the field time was limited. At the last minute I tossed in an extra Wonder Bag. That was good thinking because when things got drenched, I was able to split them into two bundles for the trip home. Instead of one (dry) 70 pound bag, I had two wet and sandy 50 pound bags. The airlines didn't like it, but it worked...
Every time we come to Uchinada, we are overwhelmed. Hundreds of huge warriors, kabuki characters, and animals stare down at me from a sky positively littered with breathtaking kites. Noise making "hummers" make the field sound like the deck of an aircraft carrier. People everywhere are dressed in happi coats and traditional costumes.
American guests included Josh and Zach Gordon or Illinois, chaperone Dan Brinnehl, Marc Rickets and Curtiss Mitchell of Guildworks, and Susie and myself. Ever wonder what the difference is between a cute kid and a cute girl. Here's the answer.
This year, I decided to shoot a happi-coat panorama for the Update. Check out all the cool coats!
BTW -- we brought about 20 different coats back from Japan and will have them on the Factory Page later this week.
The Japanese are the best hosts in the world. Teams and local clubs set up tents along the edge of the beach and haul out cooking gear, food, beer and sake. Stop to say hello and you'll be offered lunch. Admire a kite too closely and it may be offered to you as well.
International guests at the Uchinada festival stay in a traditional Japanese royokan inn with several Japanese friends. The food is exquisite. We sleep on futons in communal rooms, share group (single-sex) baths, and experiment with Asian squat toilets. The experience is a bonding one.
The annual May festival seems unbearably short - starting with taiko drums at a formal welcome party, and ending with speeches the next afternoon. Back in Tokyo, we gather at one last Sayonara Party. The title is a misnomer. In Japan, kitefliers don't say "good bye", we say "mata ei mashoe" -- see you again soon!
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