Children’s Day – kodomo no hi

Remember how in March Japan celebrated Hina Matsuri? Well this month they celebrate Children’s Day (or kodomo no hi こどもの日). Kodomo no hi takes place every year on May 5th, and has become a national holiday. It’s been celebrated for centuries, originally known as tango no sekku (端午の節句), but it’s only in 1948 that it officially became a national holiday, and also part of Golden week (a succession of public holidays in Japan). Now the name for this special holiday is a bit misleading. Although it is called Children’s Day, it is in fact a holiday primarily for boys.  Before 1948 when the government decided it would be a national holiday, Children’s Day was known as Boy’s day. It was only later decided that it would be a day to celebrate all children. However, it is still perceived as a day for boys.

If you live in Japan or visit during this period, you’ll notice a lot of these in the streets and outside people’s homes:

koinobori-thumb
Image source                                                      

These carp like streamers are known as koinobori (鯉のぼり). In Japan, carps are seen as a symbol of strength and success. Legend goes that a carp swam upstream against strong currents and turned into a dragon! So parents wishing their children become strong, determined and successful like the carp, will raise one koinobori for each boy or child in their household.

Another tradition on Children’s Day is to display a kintarou doll and kabuto (Japanese samurai helmet). Kintarou (金太郎), also known as the Golden Boy, is a Japanese Folklore. According to legend, he was a child with superhuman strength living in the mountains amongst animals he had befriended. Kintarou could sumo wrestle with bears, fight demons and monsters, uproot trees, smash rocks into pieces and more. Which is why he is a symbol of strength. If you’re interested , here’s a short story I found on YouTube (also a great way to test your Japanese 😉 ):

Finally, on kodomo no hi, it is also customary to eat kashiwamochi (柏餅), rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves.

Image source
Image source

The oak tree is considered sacred. Also, it is known for not shedding old leaves till new leaves are ready to blossom, which is why they have become a symbol of prosperity of one’s descendants, and continuous family line.

Like Hina Matsuri, kodomo no hi sounds like a super fun day for children and young boys. If you have any children, I’m sure they’re very much looking forward to this day. And for the rest of us, I’m sure we enjoy watching those beautiful koinobori blowing in the wind just as much 😉

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