Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Boys Day

If you travel through Japan from the middle of April to early May, you will notice something interesting flying high above the rooftops and blowing in the wind.

Nearly everywhere you go, huge, multi-colored Koi-Nobori, carp-shaped wind socks made of paper or cloth, and they fill with wind, beautifully illustrating the start of spring and Kodomi no Hi.

Kodomi no Hi, also known as Children's Day, is celebrated in Japan on May 5th. This holiday originally started out as Tango no Sekku, which means Boy's Day. But after World War II, the holiday was changed to celebrate and promote the health and happiness of all children, not just boys. Even though May 5th is children's day, the tradition and decortations still reflect that of Boy's Day.

The carp has become the symbol of the Boys' Festival because the Japanese consider it the most spirited of fish. A carp is flown for each son in the family, a very large one for the eldest, the others ranging down in size. Together with long red and white ribbons, the carp are hoisted on a bamboo pole, mounted by a pair of gilded pinwheels, and flown outside families homes.

We had the pleasure of celebrating this day with Tasaka-san and his family. This is a big day for them b/c Tasaka-san and his wife have 4 grandsons! In their home they displayed something similar to what I described in my post about Hinamatsuri. Their Boys' day display consisted of samurai dolls wearing kabuto, which are samurai helmets and the dolls are holding swords. I learned of the significance of kabutos when Rowen came home with a paper helmet that he had at made Yochien, in honor of boys day.

While dressing up the boys in a cultural vest and headband, we were offered kashiwa-mochi, a rice cake stuffed with bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf, which is also a symbol of strength.

Displayed at the entrance of Tasaka-san's home were Iris flowers, also in bloom during this time, and are placed in the home to ward off evil.

1 comment:

  1. I love that in Japan everyone celebrates the holidays with such spirit and it seems like everyone really celebrates them. It's nice to see such unity amongst the country. I miss Japan. I'm glad you write your posts with updates of life over there!