Children in Japan often celebrate New Year's Day by flying long-tailed kites. The kites may be in any shape and may be very large or very small. They are usually made of paper or cloth over a wooden frame, but they also can be made of plastic. A favorite decoration is a dragon with a fierce face and a long tail. Some kites have faces of demons or brave soldiers painted on them.

Many Japanese children design and build their own kites. They make them look like butterflies, cranes or even fish. Some kites have wings or tails on them. Box kites are made for flying on very windy days.


A Japanese fighter kite beautifully made and decorated by Seiko Nakamura one of best Hata kite makers in Japan.


The most important part of building kites is being able to fly them, either alone or with other people. Japanese children like to challenge others to launch and guide kites into the sky. Sometimes they have kite fights. In one area of Japan, knife-blades are fastened to kite strings so that those flying them can try to cut a competitor's string and make that kite fly off into the sky.

A kite from Hirato -Nagasaki area

The large staring eyes and sharp teeth represent the helmet worn by the Samurai Warrior who needed to be easily recognizable on the battlefield by their own soldiers and commanders.

If it has a face beneath the helmet only the children of the Samurai should fly it. The bamboo frame is one of the most complex of Japanese kites.


Daruma means Boditharma who was an Indian Zen Monk, who introduced Buddhism into China. It is said he prayed and meditated for nine years without moving and lost the use of his legs. He is always painted without legs and is a symbol of patience. He is also famous for his staring and fierce eyes. Daruma is depicted on many Japanese kites.

Made and painted by Mikio Toki one of Japan's best kite makers.


A Japanese fighter kite beautifully made and decorated by Seiko Nakamura one of best Hata kite makers in Japan.


A 3 metre high Edo kite. Applique by David Bailey.

ROKU means six -- Kaku means corners. Another Japanese fighting kite and flown at the Shirone Kite Festival each May. Teams of kite fliers gather on both river bank and try to entangle their flying lines then proceed to cut each others kites lines or pull the kites to their side of the river. Normally decorated with famous warriors, folk heroes or advertisement.

This beautifully appliqued kite made by David Baille is 2 metres heigh and taken part in many Rokkako fights in both England and abroad.


There are three types of Nagoya Koryu kites - Abu means horsefly, Semi means cicada, and Hatchi means bee.
This is an Abu dako and all are very sought after kites because of the difficulty in construction and use of antique bamboo for its frame. The old bamboo used will have come from the roof of a very old house, which would have had a hole in it to allow smoke out from the open fire in the middle of the room. Over the years the bamboo was turned a beautiful brown. Because of it's age the bamboo is very rare and difficult to find. Flown with a hummer attached which buzzes like the real insect. Can be flown in strong winds.


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