|Happy Children's Day!|
5/5, May fifth, is Children's Day--the time of year you see undulating carp streamers hanging off balconies or strung across rivers. Koinobori (Koi-- carp, nobori-- streamer) are actually windsocks painted with eyes and fins and scales and shaped tails to resemble the giant Koi that fight their way back upstream every spring.
Here they go:
|waving from a neighbor's balcony|
The largest streamer is said to be the father, the progressively smaller streamers, the male siblings of a family from oldest to youngest (represented by the smallest koi). If you see them hanging from a balcony or in front of a house, it means that family has boys.
The movement of the streamers in the wind is said to resemble carp swimming in the river, struggling to swim upstream, and as such symbolize strength and perseverance--qualities parents traditionally hope to inculcate in sons.
Sons, you'll have noticed by now, not daughters-- this day was originally called Boy's Day (Girl's Day is Hinamatsuri-- the Doll Festival on March 3), and the trappings still reflect that despite it's having been renamed Kodomo no Hi in 1948 when the Japanese government made it a national holiday.
|glinting gold and green in the sun...|
|Kintaro, who rides a bear instead of a horse (and also Koshi;-)|
Kintaro, the warrior boy of folklore who was so strong he rode a bear instead of a horse, is the character associated with Boy's Day. Families put small, decorative kabuto helmets on display in the genkan to express the hope that their sons will grow up healthy and strong. This was originally done only in samurai families, but gradually filtered down to all families with boys.
|Hana Shobu-- Japanese Iris with its sword-like leaves|
The Hana Shobu, Japanese Iris, with its sword-shaped leaves is the symbolic flower for Boy's Day. Many people also display a small ceremonial sword behind the Kabuto warrior's helmet. I've always assumed that the re-naming of Boy's Day to Children's Day in 1948 was the Japanese government putting a peaceful, post-war face on a holiday that traditionally celebrates the Warrior.
|yes-- you eat the leaf, too:-))|
Kashiwa Mochi-- a sticky rice dumpling filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in a pickled oak leaf is the traditional snack for Children's (Boy's) Day. "Kashiwa" is 'oak'--the strongest of trees.
...and naturally, there's a song to go with those beautiful carp streamers. Because, trust me, there's a song about practically *everything*.
|Last year, all the area elementary kids painted Koinobori...|
Yane yori takai Konobori
Ookii magoi wa Otoosan
Chisai magoi wa kodomotachi
Omoshiroso ni oyoideru...
|....which were displayed again this year over the river in front of our school|
Higher than the rooftops Koinobori
The biggest streamer is the father
The small streamers are the children
They look like they are having fun swimming in the sky...
Here's the song if you like singing along:-))
|Mata asobou, ne!|