Although the tradition of kite flying originated in China, the Japanese have integrated the vibrant sky piercers into their culture so markedly that any Japanese festival or holiday would be incomplete without its own brand of kite flying activities. Embellished with unique national elements the cultural phenomenon of kite flying has taken a life of its own in modern-day Japan. Used in religious ceremonies to communicate with the divine and as a method of conveying gratitude for the blessings received, kite flying attained a status as a high-end recreational activity for the country’s wealthy. With the advent of kite fighting contests in recent years, the activity has become more popular than ever before making the need for a kite museum in the capital ever more pressing.
Established in 1977 by restaurateur Shingo Modegi the museum is located on the fifth floor of a building owned by the founder in the heart of an exclusive neighbourhood in Tokyo. Sprawled across the entire 5th floor of the structure the 3000 square foot space is laden with vibrant kites from floor to ceiling with over 4000 exhibits peeking out from behind glass cases and walls as well as overhead on the ceiling. Due to the sheer number of exhibits the museum displays its kite collection on a rotational basis that changes exhibits every three months. Kites displayed include items that were gifted to the institution as well as those collected by Modegi himself.
Showcasing mainly traditional Japanese kites from across the land of the rising sun, the venue also focuses on antique kites and signature creations from some of the country’s best kite manufacturers. With a plethora of equally engaging items from China and the rest of Asia, the museum also houses a special quarter devoted to kite Master Teizo Hashimoto. Renowned for his hand–drawn Edo kites the grand master is seen decorating a kite in a wax figure at the venue which also features some of his drawings and kites on its walls.
Those inspired to fashion their own kites can also do so at the free kite-making class at the museum which lets visitors manufacture their own kites after a 30 minute demonstration. A special platform decorated with tatami mats and a charcoal stove also serves as the setting for kite making classes and the tea ceremony. Top kite makers also give special demonstrations in January which is considered the official kite season in the country.
Visitors can also purchase kites at the museum which also offers special souvenir kites made from washi paper and a bamboo frame. Exquisite creations of Japan’s premier kite craftsmen are also available here for die hard Japanese kite enthusiasts and collectors.
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