Location: Aomori, Japan
From: October 1, 2007
To: October 1, 2007

On the northernmost tip of Japan’s Honshu Island, in Fujisaki, Aomori, I and fellow Drachen board member Jose Sainz were the guests of Japan Kite Association President Masaaki Modegi at the JKA Fall meeting. The quick trip was an opportunity to renew old friendships – Sainz, Skinner, Modegi and others spent the last night in Aomori at the home of noted Tsugaru kitemaker Tokuko Sato – and also to consider future projects with JKA members.

Of special interest to us were the high quality materials used to make traditional Japanese kites. We discussed the issues of importing quality bamboo for use in kites. After the interest shown in paper and bamboo kites at this year’s AKA Convention, it was clear that acquiring quality bamboo has been a major stumbling block for American kite makers. With the help of Tokyo kite maker, Mikio Toki, the Drachen Foundation will work to bring in useable bamboo that is appropriate for kite projects of about 1 square meter. Stay tuned to the DF website for details. Jose was treated to his first trip to Tokyo’s stationary store Ito-ya where he found a selection of washi that is unmatched. Expect more paper and bamboo projects from both of us.

With the threat of a major typhoon off the coast of Japan, weather in Aomori looked nasty. Fall color was just beginning, but the cool of night told us that the weather could really turn for the worse if the typhoon’s effects came north. However, Sunday’s weather couldn’t have been better! Mt. Iwaki was cloudless and temperatures were in the 70s. JKA members from as far south as Okinawa flew kites from throughout Japan. Jose and I were able to fly some special kites and also take our “Me and My Rev” picture. Of note for me was the sight of three tojin “demon kites” flying high above the field with a fourth, made in ripstop and like a parafoil, launched and flown as well. This was an amazing sight and a commentary on the state of traditional and contemporary kite making present in Japan! Also of special note was a workshop given by various JKA members: an open forum of kites for children. This was a great opportunity to see older JKA members share their ideas for simple, inexpensive kites for kids. From the Conover Eddy (as seen in Margaret Gregor’s Kites for Everyone), to Tsutomu Hiroi’s “Invader”, to kaku dako in paper or plastic, the workshop dealt with issues critical to all teachers – high degree of success for minimal expense.

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