While windy March is considered the prime time for kite flying in many Western countries, January is the traditional season in Japan. Two kite flying events are scheduled in January within reasonable driving distance from Tsukuba. These include very large kites taking many people to control, and if the weather is good, they are quite a sight to see.
Toride Tone River Kite Festival Saturday, January 12th at the Toride Ryokuchi Undo Koen, located along the banks of the Tone River. If traveling by car, you will need to approach the park by crossing over the Joban tracks from Highway 6. By train, it's a 5 min. walk from the East Gate of Toride Station. Contact number: 0297-74-2141.
Another festival worth seeing that is also in Toride is the Tonegawa Dondo Matsuri, which centers around the burning in a giant bonfire the various New Year's decorations (such as "kadomatstu", the bamboo and pine branch decorations used to welcome the New Year) on Jan. 15 at 5 pm. In the coals of the bonfire, people roast senbei (and perhaps even marshmallows these days) on long sticks. For further info, call 0297-74-2141.
Shinshun Kokai River Kite Festival Sunday, January 27th at the Fuminari Bashi Grounds. From the Yatabe Interchange on the Joban expressway, continue on to the center of Ina Machi. Turn right at the T-intersection and follow that road (route 19) on towards Toride. The grounds are located where that road crosses the Kokai River. Contact number 0297-58-2111.
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