Can You Describe Some Japanese Kite Traditions?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
Kites have been used as talismans supposedly to avert evil spirits. If a son was born to a family, as the year came to a close the grandfather would paint a picture of a demon on an enormous kite. This would then be hung from the ceiling above the baby boy. On the first day of O-Shogatsu (New Year), the kite would be removed and flown by the family in the belief that all evil would thus be drawn from the house and taken away with the winds. Supposedly having removed all possibilities of disaster in this way, the health and happiness of the child was thought to be assured. This ancient custom still exists at one or two places in Japan.

Wherever a person goes in Japan today, kite giving is still observed in festivals for children. Each year there is a festival for boys and one for girls. The pictures on the kites vary and convey certain wishes—a crane or a tortoise for a long life, a dragon for prosperity, a carp for strength, and so on. On these occasions, kites are considered to be good-luck charms.

The origin of the famous Nambu kites, which gained great popularity in Europe, also reflects old religious superstitions. Shintoists painted their petitions to the gods on Nambu kites. These were taken to the shrines and flown in the belief that in this way the requests could be taken directly to the gods, instead of waiting for the deities to come down to earth.

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