Japanese Toys: Kites

Figure 1.--This stereoscope card taken around 1900 shows Japanese children palying with what look like square-shaped kites. They look like boys, although we are not sure about the children with umbrellas. That is acombination we do not see that combination in the West. Click on the image to see the history on the back.

The toys I remember growing up inthe 1940s and 50s were toys the Japanese amse for America. We are unsure what toys Japanese children played with, at least before the Pacific War. We suspect they were basically the same as Western children, perhaps with some differences. We do note Japanese children playing with kites, but there were differences. Some of the Japanese kites were not at all like the standard trapazodal Western kites. There is in fact a long hitory of kites in Japan. Buddhist missionaries travelling from China appear to have brought kites to Japan during the Nara period (649-794 AD). China would seem the logical plce for kites to hve developed. Both paper and silk are perfect kite fabrics. And bamboo was perfect for the frames. Kites in Japan following the Chinese model were used in religious and thanks giving ceremonies. We first see the characters for kite (kami tobi) in an early Japanese dictionary (981). The characters literaly meant 'paper hawk'. The paper shows the matrial used. The hawk may have referred to fast movement. It might also refer to design shapes. The Japanese internalized the Chinese kite culture. but they also developed thir own distinctive designs and cultural traditions. There are accounts of large kites being used to lift tiles and other materials up to workers on the roof tops of large durimg construction buildings. A popular story describes a warrior named Minamoto-no-Tametomo who was exiled to an island with only his young son. He was moved to tears as aesult of his son's lonely existence. He built a huge kite which they used to escape to the mainland. Both boys and adult men fly kites. There was popular fighting games. Early photographs of Japan show kites and other banners flying in the wind. And we note boys and men having fun wih them. The photograph here shows boys with kite around 1900 (figure 1). Particularly notable is the umbreallas that the Japanes kids brought along to fly kites. Kites seem particularly popular with boys in both Japan and the West.


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Created: 1:16 AM 11/7/2004
Last updated: 2:32 AM 8/6/2011