What Is The History Of Kite Flying In Japan?


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The first kite on record in Japan dates back to 931 of the Common Era. It had been brought here from China, where kites originated. At that time, along with Buddhism, washi (the very tough paper developed in the East) was introduced to Japan. These events were concurrent because kites were made of washi and were used for Buddhist ceremonies.

In the eleventh century, kites were used as military symbols. Then, and at later times, they were employed to carry communications and food to allies during battles. Just as American Indians used to send up smoke signals, so in wartime the Japanese flew kites to show their position. The Japanese evidently had good knowledge of geometry hundreds of years ago, for, by attaching a long tail to a kite and flying it directly over the enemy's camp, they were able to calculate the distance between themselves and the foe. Thus, they were even able to tunnel right into the opposing camp.

During the sixteenth century kites became popular as toys. Since they were large and were flown unskillfully in town areas, many serious accidents occurred as the cumbersome kites came down on people's heads. Laws forbidding kiteflying were ignored and this pastime enjoyed its biggest boom ever.

Fishermen, too, found uses for kites. Since days of old, fishermen have used them to determine air currents and by doing so decide whether it was safe to go to sea or not.

The eighteenth century brought about great changes in Japanese kite designs. One reason for this was that wood-block-print pictures were being copied and developed into kite designs. Additionally, Japan began opening her doors to the outside world, and before long influences in picture designs from China, Southeast Asia and even India were showing up in kites.

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