Happy Children’s Day!
May 5th in Japan is a national holiday dedicated to celebrating the happiness of kids. I love the carp streamers that are displayed for the week leading up to Children’s Day. They are bright and colourful, and peaceful yet powerful. The carp, known as koi in Japanese, symbolise strength as the fish are able to swim upstream.
One of the most famous places around Tokyo to see the koinobori is Sagamihara in Kanagawa prefecture. I made the 1.5 hour train and bus journey on the weekend. There were so many families enjoying the nice weather. It was really great to see kids playing around in the water, skimming (or just throwing) pebbles and generally having a good time. It reminded me of my childhood days playing at a river down the road from our house. Those were the days! I wish all of the school students I teach and have taught, as well all the kids around the world, a healthy and happy life.
Koinobori flying at Hana no Miyako Park near Mt Fuji on Tuesday.
May 5th is Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) in Japan. It’s one of four national holidays that make up “Golden Week”. I won’t go too much into the background of this day because I wrote a post about it last year, but basically Kodomo no Hi is a day to celebrate boys. It’s tradition for families with sons to put up koinobori (carp streamers) outside their houses. These days though, you can see koinobori flying high in lots of places, especially above rivers where they look like they’re swimming upstream!
Today, I went to Tokyo Tower where they have 333 koinobori flying at the base. There is one carp for every metre the tower is tall i.e. it is 333 metres from the base to the highest point of the antenna. The tower was completed in the year Showa 33 (equivalent to 1958) – however, this ’33’ is actually a coincidence!
From talking to Japanese people over the years, I definitely feel as though they think of Tokyo Tower as the original symbol of their capital city. It was built after World War II and became an image of hope for a nation in recovery. It was the country’s tallest tower until 2012 when Tokyo SkyTree was completed. And although SkyTree is a new and super exciting attraction, and will eventually take over all broadcasting, I think Tokyo Tower will always be a nostalgic icon and the heart of the city.
Koinobori at Tokyo Tower:
View from the top:
Facing south – the roads resemble Tokyo Tower!
Facing west, towards Shinjuku
View from surrounds:
The orange stands out everywhere
Beautifully reflected on this glass building
Reflections on The Prince hotel
Sleek and graceful against the night sky
In the blink of an eye, Golden Week came and went. Holidays always fly by way too quickly! I packed as much as I could into my four days off, venturing to new places, eating new food and meeting new people. By the end of it, I was left with lots of good memories… and about 500 photographs to sort through and edit!
Children’s Day, こどもの日, was one of the holidays celebrated during GW. Although no one knows exactly when this holiday started (anything up to 1000 years ago), it used to be a day to honour boys only. It officially became “Children’s Day” in the late 40’s.
For this festival, families with sons hang up carp streamers outside their house and display warrior dolls inside their house. It’s also common for there to be ‘koinobori festivals’ in public places where you can go and see hundreds of carp flying high in the sky. It’s quite spectacular to walk underneath these huge 5 metre long streamers. They really do look like fish flying in the sky!
A little bit about the background of koinobori… the carp, called koi in Japanese, are a symbol of good luck. They are a type of fish able to swim upstream by jumping up out of the water. These carp are said to have qualities of strength, courage and success. So, they represent the type of men that parents wish their sons will grow into.
~ Koinobori along the Tama River in Noborito, Kanagawa ~
~ Koinobori in Miura, Kanagawa ~
This family shows a black carp which represents the father, a red carp for the mother, then one blue carp which represents their son.
~ Koinobori in Kawagoe, Saitama ~
Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls) in a private house in Kawagoe