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Shirone Giant Kite Battle 2022: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Shirane Kite Battle 2022, June 5, 2022|Giant Kites Dancing in the Sky|Otaka group vs. Kenshin group, Yakusha group vs. Isshin Tasuke group|Japanese Shirone Giant Kite Battle" (空に舞う大凧を撮ってきた・白根大凧合戦2022・令和4年6月5日 大高組VS謙信組 役者組VS一心太助組), was uploaded by "pikineko【photographer】."

The Shirone Giant Kite Battle is held every year in early June in Shirone, Niigata and in Nishi-shirone, Niigata, in Japan's Koshin'etsu Region. Thirteen groups of kites, divided into Eastern and Western forces, crash their kites into one another and compete for victory or defeat in this heroic festival. It's a popular event for taking photos.

The video shows the competition between the East Army's Otaka and Yakusha groups and the West Army's Kenshin and Isshin Tasuke groups. The sight of these giant kites fighting in the air is very exciting to watch. Be sure to check out the video before reading along to see how the history and tradition of the Shirone Giant Kite Battle has been passed down from generation to generation.

A Brief Introduction to Kites in Japan

Kites, called "tako" (凧) in Japanese, are said to have been introduced to Japan by the Heian Period (794 - 1185). They are made by affixing Japanese paper to a bamboo frame, and often come in a rectangular shape, although some regions of Japan have hexagonal kites, etc.

Japanese kites are often decorated with traditional imagery, such as samurai. In the past, kites were incredibly popular in Japan, to the point that they were a common cause of damage to residences. Even today, they can be enjoyed at a wide variety of Japanese festivals and other events.

Why Is the Shirone Giant Kite Battle Held? A Look at the History of the Event

Image of Shirone Giant Kite Battle
Photo:Shirone Giant Kite Battle

The Shirone Giant Kite Battle, held in Shirone, Niigata, is a tradition with 300 years of history. It's a well-known festival that signals the arrival of early summer in Niigata.

The origin of the Shirone Giant Kite Battle dates back to the middle-Edo period (1603-1868 AD). It began when people on the Shirone side of the Nakanokuchi River flew kites to celebrate the completion of the Nakanokuchi River embankment repair work. However, the kites fell on the Nishishirone side, the other side of the river, resulting in damage to some fields. People on the Nishishirone side, angered by this, began to fly their own kites in an attempt to knock down the kites of the Shirone side. This story is said to be how the event started.

Like festivals in other parts of Japan, the Shirone Giant Kite Battle is also symbolic in nature. Kites are flown high to celebrate the birth children and to wish that prayers for a bountiful harvest will reach the heavens.

Shirone Giant Kite Battle Rules and How Winners Are Decided

Image of a giant kite
Photo:A giant kite

The Shirone Giant Kite Battle is divided into six groups from the east (Shirone side) and seven groups from the west (Nishishirone side) across the Nakanokuchi River. The kites are flown from both banks, and pitted against each other until the other kite's rope is broken. The kite that remains standing is the winner.

The kites used in the Shirone Kite Battle are as large as 44 square meters (~470 square feet) and weigh a whopping 50 kg (110 lbs.).

The Eastern side flies their kite low in the sky, while the Western side crosses the rope of their kite over the Eastern side's kite and slams it headlong into the river water. They continue fighting like this until one of the ropes is broken.

If the rope is broken, the winner is awarded with one point. If the rope is not broken within the set time limit, the match is a draw, and both sides receive half a point. If the kites separate from each other before a rope is broken, the match is deemed "nakiwakare" (泣き別れ, A tearful parting) and there is no winner.

These are the basic rules for scoring and determining winners and losers in the kite battle, but in reality, several kites may become tangled up together, as several pairs fly their kites at the same time. Since the method of determining winners and losers changes depending on the situation, spectators are kept on the edge of their seats as they await the outcome of the battle.

The ranking of each pair is determined by their performance during the festival, which in turn determines the winning side.

Shirone Giant Kite Battle 2023 Schedule and Attractions to See During the Festival

Image of fireworks

The Shirone Giant Kite Battle, which was shortened in duration in recent years, was held normally in 2022, but because the other events were canceled, many tourists were not able to enjoy the festival to the fullest.
Luckily, it was been announced that the 2023 festival will be held for five days from June 1 to 5, with the previously canceled children's kite competition on May 31 and the citywide parade on June 1.

In addition, a fireworks display is expected to be held as well, which will be a major event that will liven up the kite battle. In previous years, the event was held on Saturday during the festival period, and in case of rain, it is held on the following Sunday.

Shirone Kite Museum: Learn More About the Exciting Shirone Giant Kite Battle

The Shirone Kite Museum in Minami, Niigata, is one of the world's largest kite museums, where visitors can learn about kites and kite battles. You're sure to be captivated by the museum's collection of rare kites from all across Japan and around the world on display here.

A full-size kite, like the ones used in kite battle, greets visitors at the entrance! You can also see the materials used to make the kites in the exhibition area.

Inside the museum, visitors can experience what it's like to watch a kite battle through pictures and videos on the walls. If you can't make it to the actual event, we recommend checking this out.

Visitors can also participate in a kite-making experience, after which, they'll have their very own kite that they can try flying in the wind tunnel laboratory. It's a great way to commemorate a trip to the area and will make you feel like a kid again. Incidentally, it's a great experience for kids as well.
If the weather is nice, you can also fly your kite outside.

Furthermore, at the souvenir corner, you can buy a kite with your desired design and name on it, which is popular as a gift. A temporary parking lot is available during the Shirone Giant Kite Battle, and free shuttle buses run from the parking lot to the venue.

How to Get to the Shirone Giant Kite Battle Venue

The Shirone Giant Kite Battle is located somewhat far from Niigata, but the easiest way to reach the event venue if you're coming from Niigata Station is via bus. There are buses scheduled on both weekends and weekdays that you can take to Shirone. You can opt to get off at at the Go no Machi (五の町) bus stop which takes you within a couple minutes' walk of the event venue (~1 hr. 15 minutes), or take a bus to the Shirone Kite Museum, enjoy a tour of the museum, and then take a free shuttle bus to the event venue from there (~1 hr. 30 mins). Either route with cost you 660 yen.

Summary of the Shirone Giant Kite Battle

The giant kites soar through the sky and engage in an exciting battle. It's a must-see event and allows visitors to experience a rich aspect of Japanese culture.
The battle will be even more lively this year, as food stalls, etc. are back as of 2022.

If you love festivals and want to see giant kites made with Niigata's traditional kite-making techniques, or if the sight of a kite battle gets your blood pumping, be sure to plan a trip to Niigata in June. Watching the powerful Shirone Giant Kite Battle is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Written By
Last Updated : May. 12, 2023
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
Video Footage of the Shirone Giant Kite Battle! Learn the Rules and History of the 300-Year-Old Battle, and Information for the 2023 Event!
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