In some sense it recounts in a macro way Tal's own introduction to Japan. The train north, the except from Kawabata's Snow Country, the arrival in this tiny farming village, going to the gymnasium to see these giant things being readied, which were going to fly? It seemed impossible ! Tal wrote in extraordinary detail what it was like to encounter these mammoth O dako or "Giant" kites. His descriptions of the actual kite fighting were engrossing and unforgettable.
In the years that followed the publication of The Art of the Japanese Kite, American publications like National Geographic came to Shirone and filmed the festival, wrote articles on the kite crazy Japanese
So it was particularly touching when two of the present day exponents of the Shirone Odako made a visit to Tal, in July 2013, a year before his passing. While he was greatly depleted of physical energy , he was very moved. Kazama Masao, one of the Odako Master kitemakers and Endo Hiromi head of the Shirone Odako Museum reignited his memories of those first experiences with these spectacular kites.
When Mr Endo, today's present director of the Shirone heard of Tal's passing, he wrote offering his condolences. And this past month he sent us another message saying that Tal had "put Shirone on the map. Had introduced the Odako far beyond the island of Japan and for this, the town was eternally grateful and they were dedicating this years 2015 Odako Calender to Tal's spirit.
Tal ended the chapter on Shirone with these words : "The sight of the Shirone Kites hanging in the afternoon sky is indescribably beautiful. Their combat is exciting and their death poignant. For me, and for many others, the festival need not ever end."
Lissa, looking out on a light snowfall in Santa Fe New Mexico