hamamatsu kitesBERKELEY — The giant kites of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, return to the Berkeley Kite Festival, which will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park in the Berkeley Marina.

“This year’s theme is ‘Heart,’ which represents our support and love,” said the International Association of Tako Age (IATA), a Japanese traditional kite-flying group. “Through this event by flying our kites, we want to show our wish for a better relationship between Japan and the USA. The word ‘heart’ (kokoro) will be printed in the giant kites …

“These kites will symbolize our continued support and our wish for fast recovery of Japan’s northeast areas (from the 2011 tsunami). From across the Pacific Ocean, we would like to send a strong message of our love and support to the Japanese people.”

IATA’s participation in the 29th Berkeley Kite Festival is supported by: Hamamatsu City, the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, JETRO San Francisco, Japan Society of Northern California, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, BaySpo, Fuji TV, J Weekly, Nichi Bei Weekly, NikkeiWest, Tokyo TV, and webMON.

IATA is looking for volunteers to help fly the kites. Contact: (415) 420-5321 or takoageusa@yahoo.com.

For more information on Hamamatsu kites, visit www.takoageusa.org.

The Berkeley Kite Festival, which is free and open to the public, will feature kite-making, team kite-flying, stunt kite-flying, rokkaku battles, food, arts and crafts, live performances by the Dylan Platt Band and taiko drummers, and a new kids’ zone. Free shuttles are available from Golden Gate Fields. For more information, visit www.highlinekites.com/pages/BERKELEY-KITE-FEST.html.

Hamamatsu Matsuri

The Hamamatsu Matsuri is held annually from May 3 to 5, attracting over 1.8 million people every year. Its primary attractions are the contrast created by energetic yet serene kite battles fought fiercely in the daytime, and the spectacular float parades at night, all making it one of the most prominent festivals in all of Japan.

Full-scale kite-fighting at the Hamamatsu Matsuri began in 1887. However, the origins of this custom date back some 448 years. Legend has it that the custom of flying kites at the Hamamatsu Matsuri began when the lord of Hikuma Castle, in celebration of the birth of his first son, flew a kite with his name written on it.

This makes the Hamamatsu Matsuri very different from any other religious festival in Japan. It is now said to be a festival made by the people for the people. The festival is for people of all ages. The three action-filled days of events are the most exciting of the year for all residents of the city.

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