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Golden Week – Children’s Day

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/25 Traditional Culture , , , ,

Today in Japan is Greenery Day (みどりの日, Midori no Hi) which is a part of the series of holidays called the Golden Week. If you want to read more about Greenery Day, read our previous post. Continuing our series of posts regarding Golden Week, we will feature Children’s Day (子供の日) or Kodomo no Hi.

Children’s Day

Children’s Day (子供の日) or Kodomo no Hi as it known in Japan is a Japanese national holiday every 5th day of May – the fifth day of the fifth month. It is a day set aside to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948 but it has been a day of celebration in Japan since ancient times.

Children’s Day Origin

The fifth day of the fifth month was traditionally called Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) and was celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th moon in the lunar calendar or Chinese calendar. After Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar, the date was moved to May 5. It was originally a festival for boys as girls have the Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival) every March 3. In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers. It was renamed Kodomo no Hi.

On Children’s Day, families with boys fly huge carp-shaped streamers (こいのぼり, koinobori). The number of carps depends on the family size: one carp for the father, one for the mother, and one carp for each child (traditionally each son). The carp was chosen because it symbolizes strength and success; according to a Chinese legend, a carp swam upstream to become a dragon.

koinobori

A house displaying outside a koinobori. (Photo from gilgongo on Flickr)

Families also display a Kintarō doll usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto, due to their tradition as symbols of strength and vitality.

kintaro

Kintarō (金太郎, often translated as “Golden Boy”) is a folk hero from Japanese folklore. He is a child of superhuman strength. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

kabuto

Kabuto (兜, 冑) is a type of helmet first used by ancient Japanese warriors. Shown in the photo is a Suji-type kabuto (helmet) used during the Muromachi period. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Also on this day, families often take baths sprinkled with iris leaves and roots. This is because the iris is thought to promote good health and ward off evil. Rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves and filled with sweet bean paste, called kashiwamochi, are also eaten.

References:

1. Children’s Day. Wikipedia.

2. Children’s Day. Web-Japan.

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