The leader of “Koinobori club”, Ryoichi Morishita, is hard at work in his art studio in Ino town when I enter. He notices me, looks up and welcomes me with a smile.
“This is my new work using small balloons,” he says.
Interestingly enough, the balloons are wrapped in a kind of Japanese paper and are to be hung from the ceiling. They are shaped like colorful little fish. His colorful works are on display everywhere and most have a carp motif, like traditional koinobori, or “carp streamers”. People can only see these wonderful works in his studio.
He creates new works every day, and not just carp streamers: postcards, painted stones, balloon fish, on and on. His ideas are playful and creative, so he can create new art from any material.
“There are infinite possibilities in art.” he says.
Ino town is located in the central part of Kochi prefecture and it takes about 30 minutes from downtown Kochi by car. There is a beautiful natural environment such mountains or rivers, and the Niyodo river in particular is famous in this area. It runs south through the middle of Kochi prefecture to the Pacific Ocean and it has been called the cleanest river in all of Japan.
Ino is also famous for tosa-washi (traditional Japanese paper). It is one of local traditional product. It was designated as a traditional craft of Japan in 1976. In Ino town, Tosa-washi has been made for more than a thousand years because there are materials such as pristine water or plants which are indispensable for paper making.
In addition, the town holds several events for people to enjoy the rich natural environment and traditional culture. “Niyodogawa kami no koinobori (Carp streamer on the Niyodo river)” is one example. It is held in Niyodo river at the beginning of May. They are mainly organized by the Koinobori club .
The “Koinobori club”, a volunteer group, including Ryoichi Morishita, was begun by local people who were concerned to hand down the attractiveness of local traditional culture to the next generation. They are proud of their place and their culture so, “Koinobori club” was organized and they focused on the future of Ino town.
“Let’s hold a Tosa-Washi event,” thought one member, “to preserve the tradition and the beauty of the river for future generations.” As a result, the “Niyodogawa kamino koinobori matusri” was born.
Colorful carp are swimming peacefully in the Niyodo river which is the most cleanest and clearest in all of Japan. In the riverside, a lot of people enjoy watching those carp in the water, and spending time with their family or their friend. In addition, most of children are flying a carp streamer in the sky, flying a kite, and painting stone which pick up from the river. When lunch time comes, they enjoy various foods in “Niyodogawa Furusatoichi”, which is like food stall. People can watch such heart-warming scenes only in Ino town from 3rd to 5th May every year and everyone can enjoy it during those 3 days. This event makes people feel happy.
The event started in 1995 to mark the 100th anniversary of Ino town, so 100 carp streamers swam in the water. About 20 years has passed since that first event, but it still continues to this day. The number of carp are increasing every year and nowadays approximately 300 carp streamers are swimming there.
Many people especially come to watch on the 5th May, Children’s Day, when in Japanese culture, carp streamers are hung out to celebrate children’s happiness. Usually, people raise the carp-shaped streamers called “koi-nobori” in the sky on the day, but these appear to swim like real carp in the Niyodo river. The end of event, those carp streamers are pulled up from the water, and they are presented to children for Children’s day. They get really happy after receiving these presents.
One feature of this event is that all the carp streamers are made of paper, and yet can swim in the water in addition to the sky. It is unique and such carp might not be seen in other places in Japan.
The paper which is used in all works is also unique. In this event, the materials of work is special Japanese paper called “不織布(fushokufu)” that does not rip when in the water. It was manufactured in Ino town. This event is held BY the local people, including the “koinobori club”, FOR local people.
A few days before the start of this event, local people go to the river using riverboat and set up carp streamers in the river. They sink carp streamers connected to rope at the bottom of river. Through it is in the water, it does not move because the ropes are also connected by weight. And also, they control the balance between weight and float by putting Styrofoam in the carp streamers.
Actually, all the carp streamers used in this event were created in Morishita’s art studio.
“I usually begin to draw the design of carp in October, and we are painting it with all members after I have illustrated. All works are completed by February. Now I’m thinking about next year’s design, so I’m excited.” he said laughing. The event has just finished 2 months ago, but he is starting to prepare for next year.
Originally, Morishita ran a shoe store, but set up the studio because he really liked to create something such as printing of art or various work of arts. And he is creating a lot of works even today.
“I want everyone to feel the warmth of family not only the wonderfulness of nature through this event.” he said. When people visit this event for the first time, they will be impressed that children are enjoying with their family and they look really happy in spending wonderful time. He hopes that such as heartwarming scenery will continue to future.
“Through this event, we had many people know the attractiveness of Ino town. And also, the popularity of the Niyodo river or Tosa-washi came to up, so a lot of people come and see it not only Japanese turist.”
“But, recently our purpose of this event is changing” he said. He has own theme to creating his work on Carp streamer on the Niyodo river:‘For the children of future’. He really hopes to leave beautiful nature, traditional culture and warmth of people to the future through this event.
He will be continue to drawing a picture and will be moved people’s hearts, through his illustrations.
“Originally, the purpose of this event is to activating our local area, but now we are creating art and experience for the children and the future,” he said.