Japanese kite

Contributed by Oriental Museum Durham

It is thought that kites were first introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks who came from China in the Nara period (710-794 CE). Kites were used for practical purposes, such as lifting materials to workers during the construction of tall buildings, but they are mainly associated with religious festivals and thanks giving ceremonies.

There are many different styles and types of kite, with each region of Japan having a characteristic shape. The decoration often depicts characters from Japanese folklore or have some religious or symbolic meaning.

This kite depicts Sasaki Takatsuna, a samurai commander in the Genpei War (1180-1185 CE). In art, Takatsuna is often depicted riding the Shogun Yoritomo's white horse, Ikezuki, racing to be the first to engage in the battle of Uji. The animal head in the bottom left corner of this kite probably indicates that this kites depicts this scene.

This kite is unusual because it was made by a female kitemaker, Asako Kato, one of only three women kite makers working in Japan in the early 20th century.

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