Shirone Otako Gassen
(Giant Kite Battle)

白根大凧合戦

 

 

Copyright (C) 2003-2006: Kari Gröhn All rights reserved. 

 

Otako Gassen or giant kite battle, in Shirone has a tradition of 300 years. Two teams fly big kites from the both sides over the 80-meter-wide Nakanokuchi River trying to tangle the ropes of each other, and draw the ropes until they are cut. The length of the opponent’s rope that the team successfully cut determines the winner. However, many giant kites (otako) crash in the river or on the bank without having caught another line. Sometimes the otako makes an unexpected turn and crashes among the spectators. While most western kite makers make a kite for a long life in the air, the Shirone kite makers make a kite with a great care to be destroyed as soon as possible. The flying time of a Shirone kite is only a couple of minutes, before it crashes into the river and the beautifully painted washi is dissolved and washed away. 
Otako is rectangular in shape measuring about six by seven metres. The otako can be rolled up and easily transported. The kite lacks the usual diagonal spars, which makes it very flexible in the wind. The frame is covered with hundreds of sheets of washi that are glued together. Each kite is beautifully painted with the symbol for the team ranging from Ukiyoe styled pictures of warriors or Kabuki characters or legendary faces of samurai, geisha, and religious figures, to demons, birds, insects, sea creatures and mythological animals. Some company sponsors all otakos, so the logo of the company must be applied to the sail. Each team has repaired about 20 odakos for the festival.

According to a legend Shirone was frequently suffered from flood so the lord of Shirone ordered people to construct new river banks. When the banks were almost completed the lord held a kite battle game for the celebration of the new banks. A stampede of people who flew kites by running all over the banks helped the banks into concretion – hard enough to prevent the flood effectively. Or another legend tells that the kites, which were given by the lord for the celebration, had fallen on the fields across the river that caused great damage on the crops. Getting angry the people across the river got even with the other side by attacking them with kites as well.

 

 

 

Copyright (C) 2003-2006: Kari Gröhn All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

Copyright (C) 2003-2006: Kari Gröhn All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

Copyright (C) 2003-2006: Kari Gröhn All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

Copyright (C) 2003-2006: Kari Gröhn All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

Copyright (C) 2003-2006: Kari Gröhn All rights reserved. 

 


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