A visit to Nihonbashi's Taimeiken Kite Museum feels a bit like stepping into the attic of an eccentric old man. The room is a tangled heap of color and string, requiring you to duck under and step around the hundreds of kites that couldn't fit inside the glass display cases.
Indeed, the current director of the museum continues to add to the collection, buying more kites during his frequent business trips (around fifty times a year, apparently) and setting them in what little space is left available.
Variety seems to be more important than order in this cramped exhibition space. Traditional bamboo flyers sit next to a modern kite resembling Anpanman, the Japanese superhero for toddlers. Giant dragon-head kites loom over three-dimensional sailboat kites reminiscent of a Spanish Galleon. Low ceilings are made even lower by flocks of bird-like kites, many of which are made from real birds.
The elementary-school set will dig all of this completely, but it may be hit or miss on either side of that age group. Junior and senior high-schoolers may grow bored with such low-tech apparatus, while toddlers could find the closed confines and frequent monster motifs (not to mention spooky dead birds) a little too creepy for comfort.
For kite enthusiasts, however, this is Mecca. The Japan Kite Association calls this place home, and the museum has information on exhibitions (check out the U.S. exhibition photos under glass), as well as kite-making classes.
Consider Taimeikan another short-stop museum, where an hour should be more than enough. If you're hungry, occupying the first floor of the building is the popular Taimeikan Restaurant, which serves steak, pasta and other "Western" foods such as fried-rice omelets. This is a good spot for lunch - that is, if you are willing to wait in line (it's that popular).
by Jason Jenkins
This book will introduce you to more than twenty of Japan's favorite specialty foods that are less well known abroad, along with a guide to the best places in Tokyo to try them and expert tips on what to order. From our sister site Bento.com.