National Geographic : 1977 Apr
Japan's Warriors ofthe Wind Photographs by DAVID ALAN HARVEY team members wait tensely atop a windswept dune in the city of Hama matsu, about 130 miles southwest of Tokyo. A gallery of spectators sur rounds them, eyes fixed on a vividly colored kite straining against its tether. A quarter of a mile away, a teammate at the end of the line flashes a signal-and the kite sails free (left). Battle cries of "Wasshoi! Wasshoi!-Forward! Forward!" erupt. The symbol of a new genera tion soars skyward. This emotion-charged scene takes place hundreds of times in early May during the city's annual three-day tribute to its first born sons. About sixty neighborhoods spon sor the huge kites, some bearing the boys' names, and turn the sky into an aerial battle field as teams try to down rival kites. The people of Hamamatsu believe the fes tival dates from the 1500's, when a kite was flown to honor the birth of a prince. Another legend suggests that the sport began when a ruler told his people to fight with kites instead of with one another. Today the spectacle draws nearly two mil lion people, as the city praises its progeny and renews the unity of its neighborhoods.