Children’s Day is former Boys’ Day
May 5th is celebrated as Children’s day in Japan. It used to be Boys’ Festival. As it is designated as a national holiday, it turned to “Children’s Day” for both boys and girls, because we have Girls’ Festival known as Doll Festival on March 3rd but not registered as a national holiday, it’s fair to have a national holiday for both.
Displaying Samurai armor dolls is common practice.
It is traditionally for Boys. The families with boys display Samurai armor dolls called “Gogatsu-ningyo” and Samurai helmet called “Kabuto” in their houses to pray boys will grow as strong as Samurai warriors. “Gogatsu” means May and “ningyo” means dolls.
“Koi-nobori”, carp-shaped streamer swimming in the sky.
People raise carp-shaped streamers on a pole outside the house. Many carp streamers can be seen between April to May throughout Japan. Unfortunately not so many in the city these days because we simply don’t have enough space at home. But if you go to the rural area, you’ll see many big ones swimming high above the roofs of houses in the blue sky.
Big black carp represents the father, the big red as the mother and smaller ones as children. Some regions hold famous “Koi-nobori” (carp streamer) festivals with numerous streamers.
People eat Kashiwa-mochi and Chimaki rice cake.
Traditional food such as Kashiwa-mochi and Chimaki are eaten on May 5th. Kashiwa-mochi is the rice cake wrapped in oak leaves while Chimaki is rice dumpling wrapped with bamboo leaves. Generally speaking, Kashiwa-mochi is eaten more in the eastern area of Japan, having the meaning of the symbol of prosperity of descendants, because oak leaves don’t fall off until new sprouts come out. Chimaki is more familiar with in the western part of Japan as a protective charm, originating in the legend coming from China.
Taking a special bath “Shobu-yu”.
Some people take a ”Shobu-yu”, a special bath with iris leaves on that night. Shobu, iris leaves are believed to have the power to remove the evils from our body and keep children healthy and strong. The sound of “shobu” in Japanese has the same meaning with the martial arts, so samurai class loved it as an auspicious item.