Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

I live in Hamamatsu City, the second largest city in Shizuoka Prefecture, which has a population of over 800,000 people. That’s roughly the same number of people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. What I didn’t know is that Hamamatsu City is biiiiiiig, area-wise. Several smaller towns surrounding the center of Hamamatsu City were absorbed, and so even towns like Mikkabi, which are about an hour away by car, are counted towards the population count of Hamamatsu City. I’d say we’re a small city. Downtown is about two blocks, and we only have one skyscraper. During peak hours, there aren’t that many people out on the streets, and it can get pretty quiet after 8:00 pm, when all the station stores close for the night.

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

During Golden Week, from May 3rd to May 5th, everything changed. Thousands of people, residents of the city and visitors from across Japan, came to our small city to enjoy the Hamamatsu Festival, or the Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival. The main event takes place at Nakatajima Sand Dunes until around 4:00 pm. After that, everyone floods into the streets of the city to pull their yatai (floats) while cheering and playing music. It was amazing to see my city so alive!

As expected at any festival, there were several food stalls at the main site. We were able to enjoy a variety of dishes, including Hamamatsu Gyoza, chocolate-dipped bananas, mochi cheese balls, etc.

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

We did a couple of food runs then sat down in the shade to watch the kites flying in the air. Each town of Hamamatsu has its own logo or image to represent itself, which is printed onto their happi coats and kites; and its own yatai (float). You can see the list of each town and their images here. There are over 100 towns in Hamamatsu, which means that over the course of three days, there were over 100 large kites flying and fighting in the air, and over 70 floats being pulled through the city at night. The kite rope is made out of 5-mm hemp. As the ropes become entangled with each other, the friction causes the kite rope to be torn and the kites are brought down to the ground.

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Downtown, several other events are also held. For example, live music performances, cultural dance performances, a Miss Hamamatsu contest, a brass band/marching parade, etc. By evening, the floats are being pulled through the streets of downtown and in each of the individual towns. We could hear horns and cheers all through the night. It’s a very festival event and worth checking out next year if you have no plans during Golden Week. The whole city is one big party during the festival, and it was interesting to see my small city transform for these three days.

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)

Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival (浜松祭り)


This post was submitted to the May 2012 J.Festa: Japan in May!

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12 thoughts on “Hamamatsu Kite-Fighting Festival

  1. I live in a small town surrounding Hamamatsu! Kosai-shi, are you familiar with it? That was a really beautiful matsuri, indeed… nice post!

      • not much, it is going to be a full year at the end of this month! Kosai is not much of a beautiful town, specially where we live(this region here was part of Arai, before the prefectures merged), but whenever we need anything, we get ourselves to the train station and to Hamamatsu we go! hehe!

    • Were you able to attend this festival at all? It was canceled last year due to the earthquake which was a bummer, but the town was in full spirits this year!

  2. Hello! I chanced about your blog while researching about Hamamatsu as I’ll be going to Hamamatsu for a student exchange programme from 3rd to 14th June this year. This is incredibly ~exciting~ and Hamamatsu looks like a beautiful place ^^

    Are there any places you would recommend? It’s my first trip to Japan (I’m from Singapore) and I’d very much like to make this experience an awesome one along with my host family!~

    Thank you!

    • I responded to your tweets earlier. :) Lots of great things to do in Hamamatsu. If you have a chance, you can visit Hamamatsu Castle Park and Kanzanji area, and you can also go down to Nakatajima Sand Dunes for the beach area.

  3. Pingback: Japan in May | japingu

  4. I just went to Hamamatsu for the first time last month.
    I also went to the museum feat. all the kites and it got me very interested in the festival.
    Unfortunately I already had different plans for GW, so I couldn’t go there.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

    P.S.: I envy anybody who lives close enough to see Mt. Fuji almost every day! (*___*)

    • There’s always next year! :) And actually I can’t really see Mt. Fuji from where I live/work. Maybe the angle isn’t right, or it’s never clear enough. But it is nice to see it when I take the trains towards Tokyo. :)

  5. Do you have videos of the kites flying? At the Berkeley Kite Festival last year I stuck around while a group of Japanese were assembling something which turned out as just a sign for their group barbecue. I lined up to buy but was turned away, motioning that my money was no good or something. So, no Japanese kites, no Japanese food either. What else could I have done?

    • I have maybe 2 or 3 short clips, but I don’t normally shoot video. I’m familiar with the Berkeley Kite Festival. Hamamatsu City is actually one of the official supporters of the festival, and representatives from my former town do come to participate in the event. They are listed on this website as 浜松市 under “Supporters”.

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