Asians are known to be pretty elaborate with their arts even with trivial things. It is then no wonder that Japanese kites are seen, for some or a lot of people, towering. The state of New Mexico, through the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, is exploring the unique nature of Japanese kites, which also used to mark someone’s social status, at least in one point of the Japanese history. Opening on June 9, Japanese kites were displayed in exhibit with the theme “Tako Kichi: Kite Crazy in Japan.”
Tako kichi when translated in English means, “Go fly a kite.” English speakers know that it’s a discreet way of saying, “Get lost,” or “Get a life.” However, it means something entirely different in Japanese, including “kite crazy.” For people who love kites, especially traditional Japanese ones, it is a compliment. And this culture is what the museum in Santa Fe wants to explore, including its art, history, sport, and tradition.
At the exhibit, 200 kites are borrowed from David Kahn, who actually owns five hundred more. Now that’s a real tako kichi. Kahn, a certified kite collector of more than 25 years, got his from many regions in Japan; some with different sizes, even reaching 12 feet. Most of his collections are from the 1960s to present. Kahn also has few kites from the 19th and 20th centuries still intact. He also has a significant number made by Teizo Hashimoto, one of the last Edo Kite master makers. Edo Kites are known to be one of the most highly decorative and famous traditional Japanese models.
The museum’s Asian and Middle Eastern collections curator Felicia Katz-Harris calls traditional Japanese kites “a delightful example of Asian folk art.” Constructed with different shapes and sizes, they are also meticulously made, reckoning the winds where they will be flown. Some also require weeks for the inks used to dry, while others may need more than fifty people to finish. “What’s appealing is that they are all handmade using traditional materials such as natural bamboo for the structure and sheets of washi paper derived from mulberry trees,” said the curator.
It was said that Buddhist monks from China were the ones who introduced kites to Japan during the Nara Period in the 17th century. Back then, kites were associated with religious activities but have also become exclusive to a particular class in Japanese society. Referring to the Edo Period (1603-1868), Katz-Harris said, “Prior to this time, kite flying was reserved for the samurai class.”
Kite designs in the exhibit also vary. Besides historical figures like samurai, there are also kites with folklore and popular heroic figures like Kintaro or “The Golden Boy,” a child with superhuman strength. The Tako Kichi exhibit is featured in the Bartlett Wing of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico from June 9, 2013 until March 23, 2014.
[via LA Times]