Happy Children’s Day!
Every year on the fifth of May, Children’s Day is celebrated across Japan.
If you are someone who has a strong interest in Japan and its culture then it is likely that you will want to experience Children’s Day – a much awaited celebration for children and adults alike. So, it pays to arrange for your trip to Japan to include this world-famous celebration.
Children’s Day in Japan: a Simple Background
Just as a bit of background, the 5th of May was formerly celebrated as Boy’s Day. This was basically the counterpart to the Girl’s Day celebration, now called “Hina Matsuri” or the Doll Festival, which is celebrated on March 3rd each year. However the holidays for both celebrations have been merged and March 5 is now known as Children’s Day, or “Kodomo No Hi”.
The 5th of May is an official holiday in Japan and falls during Japan’s Golden Week holidays. During this period, most schools, companies, and businesses are closed. The holiday usually lasts for about one week. This is a perfect opportunity for many families to go traveling either locally or abroad.
Children’s Day in Japan: The Celebration
While you are in Japan to celebrate Children’s Day, take the opportunity to notice the following symbols of this special celebration.
Koinobori: These are carp-shaped streamers and they are flown throughout the country by households with male children. Koinobori might be flown in front of the house, or strung across rivers. The koinobori streamers come in many different forms and designs, from small and simple colourful rayon streamers to enormous hand-painted cotton streamers. Basically, koinobori carp streamers symbolize the wish that boys grow to be successful and healthy.
Kabuto and Gogatsu Ningyo: In Japan, when girls are born, they are usually gifted with a set of Hina Dolls. When boys are born, they are gifted with “Kabuto” (samurai battle helmets) or “Gogatsu Ningyo” (literally “May dolls”) which depict a strong male figure such as “Kintarou” or a samurai with a funny attendant. These dolls are displayed in many homes for the Children’s Day holiday.
Kashiwa –mochi: Kashiwa mochi is a kind of Japanese sweet that is made of a thin layer of pounded rice surrounding sweet adzuki paste. The sweet is wrapped in a “Kashiwa elm” leaf. The Kashiwa elm does not lose the old leaves until the new leaves have grown, so this sweet represents the prosperity of succeeding generations. These are sold at department stores, specialised sweet shops, and even at convenience stores! You won’t have any difficulty finding them.
If you cannot be in Japan for this celebration, why not get into the spirit of the festivities by decorating your home with carp or helmet shaped paper cutouts, or having a special Children’s Day cake? Just put a carp or helmet shaped decoration on the cake for authenticity! Check Pinterest for some ideas.
You are never too old to throw yourself a Children’s Day celebration! Just invite your friends and family, and you will be set. And then book your trip for next year!