Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hamamatsu Kite Festival - May 2013

If you are a FB friend, I already summarized this trip:  "Best Festival... Ever".

This festival is held in Hamamatsu, Japan in the Shizuoka prefecture.  Here is more information about the festival.

For us, it was an EASY two hour Shinkansen ride to reach Hamamatsu.  We stayed at Sorriso Hotel Hamamatsu - which our friend, Trish, found.  It was perfect - a block from the train station, so it was easy to get to with our luggage.  It was clean and really reasonably priced for a Japanese hotel.   Unfortunately, I didn't book a family-sized room, so we were a bit packed.  But, that was totally my fault, not the hotel's.

After we checked in on Friday, we meandered around the hotel and saw food stalls being set up, and some examples of the wooden sculpture floats set up near the mall right near the hotel.  Our friends, the Carrothers, were returning to the festival for their fourth year, so we let them tell us what we should see and do.  They did not steer us wrong.

We then caught up with them at the International Food Festival.  There was a DJ playing 70s and 80s dance rock and the kids loved running around.  We got a bit of food to eat.  When it started to get dark, we headed up to the road to find a place to watch the parade.  Hundreds?  of neighborhoods were donning matching happi coats and pulling their beautiful floats through town, while women and young girls would play music from the float.  It had such a nice community atmosphere.

After a while, we headed back to the hotel, for a not-so-restful night sleep and John and Pat headed out for a night on the town.

The next day, we headed out to the Nakatajimi Dunes.  The city provided buses for ¥500 to get out there.  As soon as we got there, we were blown away.  There were over 100 (very large - 3 meters long) kites in the air.  It was a really windy day, so there seemed to be a lot more "kite fighting" that day.  It was a little unnerving sometimes and in some areas as these large kites were coming down.  But, there were always people from the "neighborhood" who were running after the kites - to reduce damage to their kites and I think protect bystanders.

We went to the beach, but it was really windy and the sand was blowing everywhere, so it was hard to stay out there for two long.  Lola was fighting a cold and a nasty fever blister on her tongue, so she was a bit fussy.  Around lunch time, we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon rest.

After that, we ventured out again for some (more!) street food for dinner and to watch the parades.  First the parades started out as more traditional parades with bands and baton twirlers and then the floats came back out.  It was great to see little kids walking by their town elders and just thinking that these kids will be participating in these events for the next 70 years or so.

On the last day, we went back out to the dunes.  It wasn't as windy, so there wasn't as much fighting, but there were still many, many kites in the air.  We spent a lot more time at the beach and the kids had fun playing in the sand.  When we went back up to the field, we just hung out on a tarp with the Carrothers and let the kids play while we picnicked.

Soon we were back on the Shinkansen heading home.  It was an amazing trip.  We will definitely return next year!

Here are more pictures of our trip.

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