SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan (June 1, 2021) – Members of the Camp Zama community learned about traditional Japanese kites at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area Library here May 28.
Not only did they learn how to say and write the Japanese word for kite, “tako,” they also learned about the history of kites in Japan and made their own.
“We had a lot of fun learning about some Japanese culture,” said Ashli Sweat, who attended with her son Sean, 5. “We saw it on the (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) page and just thought it would be fun to do something, get out of the house … and make a kite, because we love flying kites.”
Sean decorated his kite by drawing Mount Fuji as an active volcano with fire and lava tubes. He also included a snake with a moving tail, cherry blossoms and a Japanese flag.
“I thought it was fun because I loved making a snake,” Sean said.
Likewise, Kevin Boyer brought his children Ainsley, 10, and Anders, 7, and said he appreciates events that teach about Japanese culture.
“It’s wonderful they have these things put together for the children, and I’m learning things as well, so it’s a great introduction,” said Boyer, who arrived in Japan with his family in February.
Ainsley said she enjoyed being able to pick her own design for the kite and color it herself. She featured Mount Fuji, the red sun from the Japanese flag and the kanji characters for Mount Fuji.
Anders, meanwhile, said he liked spending time with his family.
“It’s really fun, and I get to enjoy having fun with my sister and my dad,” Anders said. He included Mount Fuji and the red sun on his kite as well, but also added birds and cherry blossoms.
Sari Sugai, Camp Zama Army Community Service Exceptional Family Member Program and New Parent Support Program coordinator, organized the event, which was part of the ongoing “Fun Friday” series that started in November 2020.
“We would like the community to experience Japanese culture, and this is a great opportunity for families to get together and connect with each other,” Sugai said.
Marissa Ayag-Garcia, head of the ACS Family Advocacy Program, also attended, and said she commends Sugai for incorporating Japanese culture in the Fun Friday events.
“The families are so interested,” Ayag-Garcia said. “Just a little education and exposure, it’s so valuable.”
In addition to speaking about kites in Japan, Sugai included a handout with pictures that told participants about the history of kites in Japan, how they can visit the local Sagami Giant Kites Center; and where they can fly kites.
The Japanese kanji character for "tako" brings together the characters for wind and piece of cloth, Sugai said. In addition, "tako" also means "octopus" in Japanese.
In terms of the history of kites in Japan, Sugai explained to the group that Chinese monks introduced kites in Japan in the seventh century, and today there are kite festivals all over Japan, including the local Sagamihara Giant Kite Festival.
“There’s a lot of history about kites, but in some histories they say that one samurai who was deployed and away from his family, he was so lonely [and] wanted to see his son so badly, so what he did was he made a giant kite and flew to see his son,” Sugai told the group.