May 2017

Koinobori Blowing in the Breeze

Kid’s Corner: Children's Day

In Japan, May 5th is a national holiday called Kodomo no Hiども, or Children's Day.

Children's Day was designated as an official holiday in 1948. Until then, it was known only as Tango no Sekkuたんっく, a name it also retains to this day, and was a celebration for boys. Tango no Sekku, like the Hinamatsuri, is one of the traditional gosekkuっく, the five seasonal festivals held at the imperial court. Essentially, Tango no Sekku was the counterpart to the Hinamatsuriひなまつ (Doll Festival) in March.

A Gogatsu Ningyo Display

Gogatsu Ningyoがつにんぎょう

On Children's Day families celebrate the health and happiness of their children. One way they do this by flying large decorative carp-shaped windsocks called koinoboriこい. Koinobori are often flown outside public buildings and residences and are so popular that they have become synonymous with the festival. Traditionally, black carp represent fathers, red ones mothers, and the smaller carp are children. Smaller indoor versions of these decorations are also available.

Carp are associated with determination, strength, and success. Therefore, koinobori are flown to express families’ desires for their children. Another popular traditional decoration is a model samurai with armor that is placed on a tiered platform. The samurai are often modeled off of popular characters from folktales like Kintaroきんろう and Momotaroももろう. Iris flowers, which typically bloom in early May, are also closely associated with this holiday.


Aside from the decorations, children can enjoy popular sweets like kashiwa-mochiかわしもち, which is a rice cake stuffed with sweet bean paste and wrapped in an oak leave, and chimakiちまき, which are dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

Japan Info is a publication of the Consulate General of Japan in New York. However, the opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

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