Camp Zama community members get crafty making traditional Japanese kites
The Nelson family poses for a photo while showcasing the kites they made during an event held April 2 at School Age Center on Sagamihara Family Housing Area and hosted by Camp Zama’s Arts and Crafts Center. The event was a collaboration with the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan – “Collaboration is the key to making and flying a giant kite successfully,” one Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association representative told a group of Camp Zama community members April 2.

With that philosophy in mind, the group began the collaborative effort of constructing their own traditional Japanese kites during an event the Camp Zama Arts and Crafts Center hosted at the School Age Center here.

Camp Zama community members get crafty making traditional Japanese kites
Jane Dalton, 13, watches as a member of the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association helps glue bamboo sticks to her kite during a kite-making event held April 2 at School Age Center on Sagamihara Family Housing Area and hosted by Camp Zama’s Arts and Crafts Center. The event was a collaboration with the SGKPA. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Jane Dalton, 13, one of the event participants, said she really enjoyed the kite-making process, which included building the frame out of bamboo sticks, gluing traditional Japanese paper onto the frame, decorating the paper, and attaching a string.

Tying the string to the kite using a complex knot was challenging, Dalton said, but the SGKPA representatives were there to assist her and the other attendees every step of the way.

“The people helping us were really nice,” Dalton said.

Camp Zama community members get crafty making traditional Japanese kites
A participant glues bamboo sticks to her kite during a kite-making event held April 2 at School Age Center on Sagamihara Family Housing Area and hosted by Camp Zama’s Arts and Crafts Center. The event was a collaboration with the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

There to observe the event was Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, who escorted Sagamihara City Mayor Kentaro Motomura.

Camp Zama has been part of the SGKPA’s kite-making tradition since 2006. Members of the organization visit the installation annually to cut and gather bamboo for the kite they build for their annual Giant Kite Festival.

Though the event has been canceled in recent years due to COVID-19, it gives Camp Zama community members the opportunity to learn about the culture of Japan and the local traditions of Sagamihara City, Tomlinson said.

Camp Zama community members get crafty making traditional Japanese kites
A young girl tries to fly the kite she made during a kite-making event held April 2 at School Age Center on Sagamihara Family Housing Area and hosted by Camp Zama’s Arts and Crafts Center. The event was a collaboration with the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Tomlinson said the collaborative event with the SGKPA allowed the two groups to continue a great tradition and to exchange each other’s culture.

“This is absolutely a great opportunity to teach what Japanese culture is all about [to our community members],” Tomlinson said. “To be part of this great community … that’s what we are here for.”

Camp Zama community members get crafty making traditional Japanese kites
A group of Camp Zama community members and members of the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association run and pull a giant kite together to get it to fly during a kite-making event held April 2 at School Age Center on Sagamihara Family Housing Area and hosted by Camp Zama’s Arts and Crafts Center. The event was a collaboration with the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Motomura said he is extremely grateful the SGKPA could share traditional kite-making and -flying culture with the Camp Zama community. The mayor said he and Tomlinson both strongly agree that collaborative events like the kite-making workshop should continue because they allow for face-to-face community engagement and help to strengthen the city’s friendship with Camp Zama.

“By sharing our traditions and culture together, it is a great community-building effort,” Motomura said.

After the group built their kites, the participants and SGKPA members went outside to fly their creations. Dalton said her goal was to try to get her kite to stay up in the air as long as she could, and to get it to go higher than her sister’s kite.

Camp Zama community members get crafty making traditional Japanese kites
Camp Zama community members look up at a giant kite as it flies during a kite-making event held April 2 at School Age Center on Sagamihara Family Housing Area and hosted by Camp Zama’s Arts and Crafts Center. The event was a collaboration with the Sagami Giant Kite Preservation Association. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

The group also worked together to fly a 1.8-square-meter kite which had written on it the Japanese “kanji” character “taishi,” which means “ambition.” The character was written in red, representing the sun, and green, representing the earth.

As the kite caught the wind and sailed into the air, the participants shouted and applauded at the sight.