Four Cans of Coffee

A common New Year pastime that people of all ages enjoy in Japan is kite flying. The tradition goes back centuries and, while people rarely build their own anymore, the distinctive sounds and bright colours of the simple wind catchers always draws a crowd. Not wanting to be left out, the boy asked if he could also fly a kite.

Sure. Why not?

A pair of yellow and blue kites were bought from the nearby mall and we made our way to a moderately empty baseball park where there was ample space and a good bit of wind. After a little bit of setup, we had flight! The sound of laughter and delight filled the park as a young person ran around, eyes to the sky, enjoying a simple pleasure that required zero glowing screens, LEDs, or batteries. The fun went in for at least twenty minutes, and I was capturing the moment with an old phone and even older set of eyes.

And then the crying started.

It took a second to see what happened, but the boy had lost his grip on the thread handle, meaning the kite was now travelling due North with zero resistance. A moment later it stopped travelling away from us but continued to buck and twist like an animal who was momentarily free, then once again constrained. The plastic handle was snared by a tree branch several meters above our heads. There was no escape for the kite anymore.

There was, however, a problem. Japan has a terrible habit of putting utility poles everywhere and running wires to and fro. Because the branch that held the kite was too thin to hold the weight of anyone older than 5, and because the height was much too high to send a five year old, we needed a way to recover the untamed sail before it wrapped itself around some wires. I tried using a makeshift hook that could wrap itself around the string lead to pull the kite to safety, but this proved to be futile. Within a matter of minutes, a brief lull in the wind sent the kite whirling around not one, not two, but four wires than ran from the utility poles to houses across the street; power and phone.

It was time to depend on the professionals.

Reiko called the power company who sent a pair of technicians out within an hour. As one would expect, the trapped kite had attracted a lot of attention and some boys from the neighbourhood were taking an interest in the operation. Fortunately there were no complications. The kite was returned, broken from the wind and with many sections of string in tatters. The boy was upset because his new toy couldn’t fly anymore. Reiko and I were relieved, because we weren’t asked to pay for the completely preventable rescue operation.

As a token of our appreciation, though, we did offer the two technicians a small reward for their efforts: four cans of coffee. Hopefully they could enjoy them while driving to their next mission.