Thursday, September 4, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday September 4th, 2008. Today we will be taking about a type of summer festival.

There are many different types of festivals in Japan. These festivals range from the "normal" festivals in which people pull around portable shrines to the "wild" festivals which always seem to involve either fireworks or fire of some kind. I am going to talk about one summer festival that goes on in the Niigata prefecture city of Shirone (now part of Niigata city).

The Shirone festival is actually more of a battle. They don't use knives or even swords in their battle though. Their weapons are much bigger. You can see a picture of the weapon below.

Yep. That's a huge kite. The Shirone summer festival is a huge kite battle. There is a river down the middle of Shirone, and every year in June two teams come together to fight each other over the river. It doesn't really matter who wins. All that matters is that everyone has a good time. You can see what this kite battle looks like below.

You have probably heard of kite battles in which the teams try to snap the ropes of the opposing team. Something like that happens in this battle as well. But, that is not the only way to down your opponent. The kites that are used for this battle are so huge that they need a lot of moving air to stay aloft. Most teams just position themselves in front of their opponent so they block the wind. Simple and effective.

I took part in this festival years back. I remember that it was a whole lot of running. You have to make sure you hold on tight to the rope because a sudden wind could yank it out of your hand. Also, you have to be sure not to get in the way of any rope that is being pulled tight. That could lead to an injury, a missing limb or even death. If you keep that in mind though it is a fun festival and worth going to see sometime.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 凧(たこ). It is pronounced tako and means kite. I haven't flown a normal sized kite in years. Maybe I should buy one and go to the beach to take it for a spin.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

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