The Large Kites of Zama

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The large kites flying began during the Bunsei years (1804 to 1830) in the Edo era, as an event to celebrate Boys' Day on May 5th. Initially such kites were 3 or 4 meters in size, and they were flown by individual families in such regions as Sindenjuku, Yotsuya, Zama, and Kurihara. As time went by, the kites became larger, and young people in regional areas began to fly them in groups together. The kites grew up to their actual size during the Meiji era. In the Showa period, more and more homes were built, as well as electric utility poles, which made it difficult for people to find places to fly the kites. Around 1955, they came to be flown at only one location by all kite-flyers, in the city of Zama. In addition, as the society changes, problems arose concerning about the succession of the techniques of making and flying the kites to future generations. Today, therefore, kite-flying is conducted by the "Zama City Large Kite Preservation Association."

Many Considerations Are Needed to Fly Large Kites Measuring 13 Square Meters

Photo:The Large Kite of Zama

The Zama “Large Kite Festival” is one of 50 festivals in Kanagawa prefecture. The large kites are made by people of the city's Large Kite Preservation Association.
Creation of these large kites consists of framing, rope insertion, character writing, and string attachment, proceeding in the above order.
It takes about two months to complete a kite.


Photo:The Large Kite of Zama

Bamboo used for framing is from both male and female bamboo trees, of about 8 to 10 cm in thickness.In order to increase its elasticity, it is cut slightly before using it,and the bamboo is left for certain times. About 150 pieces of bamboo are used. Whole or splited bamboo are tied with ropes and straw ropes.

Papering / rope insertion

The kites use a handmade Japanese paper that is made especially for this purpose. Each pieces are about the size of an opened newspaper, and 250 sheets of them are used in total. With these papers, 16 sheets (1.7 meter long and 6.6 meter wide) are made, 1cm-thick rope is inserted into every coner of 16 sheets and attached with glue.

Character writing

Spreading out the 16 sheets of papers on a gymnasium floor, the characters are drawn with following to a small sample. One of the features of Zama's large kites is that the characters are drawn on them. There are two characters: one that expresses the sun, in red, in the upper right; and the other that expresses the earth, in the lower left. Making people more familiar with the large kite festival, which has a history of about 200 years, the characters are selected from among citizen's ideas which are collected widely from Zama and other cities

String attachment

Photo:The Large Kite of Zama

String attachment is so important to make a kite fly. Therefore, a total of 47 strings are attached with much patience and time. The kite strings consists of ropes.Each of them are as thick as 1 cm. They are attached on the kite to get it tilt to the forward and slack off the strings on the bottom of both sides at the same time.


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