It’s thought that kites were first introduced into Japan by Buddhist missionaries who travelled from China in the Nara period (649-794 AD) and were mainly used in religious and thanks giving ceremonies.
Traditionally kites are flown on boy’s day May 5th, (the 5th day of the 5th month) at religious festivals, public holidays and New Year. At Harvest Festival kites are flown with stalks of rice attached as a symbolic offering of thanks for a good crop. Others are decorated with the face of a demon and would act as a talisman against evil. One of the most famous kite festivals is Hamamatsu where kite teams battle against each other whilst over 2,000,000 spectators look on.
Congratulation kites are still given to first born sons. Kites with paintings of folk heroes or gods are believed to protect and guide the new-born child into adulthood, Fukusuke the large headed dwarf will bring good luck and some carry long life symbols such as the crane or tortoise, The most popular design is Kinorta – a small boy who was left by his parents in a mountain forest and raised by bears – he grew up to be wise and very strong. Kinorta is often painted with a carp, another symbol of strength and bravery because the carp must swim up stream against the current to lay its eggs.