Kiyoko hurried as fast as she could. The wind was strong today and the feel of a storm was everywhere. But she didn’t think about the storm. Winds like this meant spring and spring meant the kite contest and the contest meant Otosan (Father) and Kenji would be busy building a kite. And this year Kiyoko was determined to be part of the kite making and kite flying. Then she ran into the house.
“What is the hurry?” Okaason (Mother) asked.
“There is a wind today!” Kiyoko called back.
“And you are making it all yourself.” Okaasan laughed. “Slow down or you will start a typhoon!”
Kiyoko went into her bedroom and opened her book. Homework must be done, everything done, so there would be no excuse for her not to help. After dinner she helped Okaasan with the dishes, then she went to the table where Kenji and Otosan had started working.
“Don’t bother us!” Kenji said half-seriously. “We are busy.”
“I came to help,” Kiyoko said, undaunted.
“Girls do not help with the kites. This is for otosans and sons,” Kenji laughed. “Go arrange your flowers.”
Kiyoko felt a sting inside her throat. “I can help! I even have a good idea for a fine kite.”
Kenji laughed even harder. “Girls do not build kites!”
“Why not?” his sister asked.
“Because only the boys and their otosans make kites,” Kenji insisted.
“It is no rule,” Kiyoko said as nicely as she could.
“Kiyoko is right and so are you,” Otosan said to Kenji. “For many years it has been the otosan and his son who made and flew kites, but it is no rule.”
Kenji started to protest, but Otosan gave him a quick look that Kenji knew meant, “It is enough!”
He said no more, but Kiyoko could tell that her brother was upset.
Father and Kiyoko worked all evening, drawing plans and deciding which materials and colors would make the best kite for the contest. And while they worked they laughed and talked, but Kenji only listened and watched. Then, even before they were finished he left and went to his room.
“What is wrong with Kenji?” Okaasan asked. “He is not sick is he? He did not act well tonight.”
“He does not think a girl should help with the kite,” Kiyoko said. “But he will see. I can build and fly a kite as well as any boy.”
The next week was filled with work on the kite, but every time Kiyoko and Otosan started working, Kenji would find an excuse not to help.
Soon the kite was finished and Kenji had not helped on it at all. It was a beautiful catfish kite with a huge mouth and scary teeth and big eyes painted on its sides. Kiyoko was sure it was the most beautiful kite in the whole world, but Kenji said that it was just ordinary and that it probably wouldn’t even fly.
“You will see!” Kiyoko almost shouted. “It will win the prize for the best design and for the most beautiful and the highest-flying kite in the contest.”
Kenji only laughed and Kiyoko felt hurt. She hadn’t meant to make her brother so resentful. She had only wanted to help, not to take over, but Kenji would have nothing to do with the project.
It’s not my fault, Kiyoko decided as Kenji left the room. He could have helped make the kite. But her thoughts made no difference. Inside she was not happy. She knew how important the annual kite making was to Kenji.
The next day a gentle wind came so Kiyoko and Otosan took the kite out for its first flight. The park was crowded with boys and otosans and kites.
“Where is Kenji?” Makoto asked as they passed him.
“I don’t know,” Kiyoko answered.
“He said he would rather work in the garden,” Otosan added.
“But he hates to work in the garden!” Makoto exclaimed in surprise.
“I only know what he said,” Otosan replied.
Makoto laughed. “Hiroshi, did you hear?” he shouted. “Kenji has been replaced by his sister! A girl flying a kite!” Many boys laughed and even a few otosans.
Kiyoko’s face grew hot as the anger rose inside of her. “This is my kite. There is no rule that says a girl cannot enter the contest!” she defended.
“No rule, but poor Kenji!” Makoto laughed again.
“Poor Kenji,” Hiroshi repeated.
The boys walked on, leaving Otosan and Kiyoko alone.
“What do they mean, ‘Poor Kenji’?” Kiyoko asked.
“You do not know?” Otosan asked, looking at her closely.
“No,” Kiyoko answered. Otosan shook his head but made no reply.
Kiyoko was more determined now than ever that their kite would be the best. “I will be the first girl to win the kite contest. I’ll show them,” she declared.
“There are more important things than just showing others,” Otosan said quietly.
Kiyoko was startled. “What?”
“For many, many years otosans and sons have built kites and flown them in the contest. I did so with my otosan and he with his.”
“But I thought you said it was all right and you let me help!” Kiyoko exclaimed.
“It was not for me to say yes or no. As you say, ‘it is no rule.’ If flying in the kite contest is that important to you, then you should do it. It is your decision, not mine. But tell me, Kiyoko, what is more important to you—the contest or your brother’s happiness?”
Kiyoko was sad. “I guess you did not want me to help you either.”
“No, that is not so. I have enjoyed your help, but just as you and Okaasan look forward each year to the flower-arranging contest, Kenji and I look forward to the kite contest.”
Kiyoko felt a little heartsick. She had never considered that part of it. I would feel terrible if Kenji tried to help with the flowers. And it would not be because he was a boy, but because that’s a special time for me and Okaasan to be together.
“I think I understand now,” Kiyoko said softly.
“There are many things we do together as a family,” Otosan said, “but there are also times when not everyone of us is included.”
Kiyoko had only wanted to fly her kite, but she had hurt Kenji. What should I do now? she wondered. It was a hard decision, but finally she knew what she must do.
“I have some homework,” she said. “I’d better go do it.”
“You can stay if you really want to, Kiyoko,” Otosan said.
“I thank you, but I must go.” Quickly she ran home, making lots of noise as she walked through the garden.
Kenji looked up and laughed. “You couldn’t get it up? See, a girl cannot fly a kite.”
For a moment Kiyoko was hurt by his words, but now she understood why he spoke as he did.
“It is up,” she said.
“Then why are you here?”
“I’m tired of kites,” Kiyoko said, trying to sound convincing. Then she turned and ran into the house so Kenji would not see her tears.
Kiyoko watched out the window as her brother ran to join Otosan. “It is a good kite.” she said. “Kenji and Otosan will win many prizes. I know now that it does not matter if a boy or a girl flies it. Otosan and I will do other things together—now it is their time.”