Japan National Holidays
Children’s Dayこどもの日・こどものひ occurs on May 5 and dates back to the Nara Period when it was known as Tango no Sekku. Initially, it was a day to celebrate boys’ perseverance, strength and well-being, but today celebrates boys and girls.
It is the final of the ゴールデンウィークGolden Week holidays and also the most visible with many people flying carp-shaped 鯉のぼりこいのぼり・koinobori flags throughout the country by families to celebrate the presence, health, happiness and personalities of their children.
Traditionally, a large black こいのぼり鯉のぼり・koinobori, known as the 真鯉まごい・magoi representing the father flies at the top of a flag pole. A red koinobori, the 緋鯉ひごい・higoi representing the mother, comes second followed by a blue koinobori representing the firstborn child. Additional koinobori are added for each subsequent son or daughter with the carp’s color and position, denoting the son’s relative age.
The use of the 鯉こい・koi comes from an old Chinese story of a carp swimming up a waterfall and turning into a drago. The story represents perseverance and a prayer for success in life. Besides the koinobori, 金太郎人形きんたろうにんぎょう・Kintaro dolls, depicting children riding a carp; and 兜かぶと・kabuto samurai military helmets for boys are displayed by families to pray for the the health and vitality of their children.
端午の節句たんごのせっく・Tango no Sekko was renamed こどもの日こどものひ・Kodomo no Hi after the post-war constitution took effect in 1948. It was changed to include girls and to express gratitude toward mothers, but symbolically the holiday is still predominantly for boys. A girls day, known as the ひな祭りひなまつり・Hinamatsuri or doll festival, is observed on March 3 but is not a national holiday.
A popular dish eaten during Children’s Day is 柏餅かしわもち・Kashiwa mochi, oak-leaf wrapped mochi balls (sweet red bean paste stuffed rice cakes). Because it does not shed its old leaves until new ones have grown, the oak tree is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune for one’s posterity and friends.