Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s Day, is a traditional annual event that takes place as part of the Golden Week celebrations on May 5th each year in Japan. The idea of this public holiday is to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness.
Although this day has been celebrated since ancient times, it was officially designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948.
Since that time, tt has become a much loved event in Japan and a time for families to do something together. Before May 5th, families across Japan fly carp-shaped Koinobori “streamers” in their gardens or from their balconies – one for each child in the family.
In Japanese folklore, the carp is a symbol of determination and vigor, as it is believed that they can overcome all obstacles they face when swimming upstream.
Samurai warrior figurines and samurai kabuto – a type of helmet are also displayed in homes to inspire strength and bravery in children.
It is a wonderful time of the year and a busy time for photography studios. Many families go to the studios, have their kids put on the warrior clothes and get professional snaps taken.
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In Japanese tradition, the “Hina matsuri” (or Doll Festival / Girls’ Day) is celebrated every March 3rd to wish good health and a happy life to the house’ little girl/s. People put out their heirloom display of dolls attired in costumes typical during the Heian Period (AD 794-1185). Compact sets have recently become popular. Traditionally however, these dolls are displayed in tiers, according to social levels during the Heian Court Period; the top tier occupied of course by the Emperor and Empress. Each family will typically have one set.
The dolls are so pretty to behold and contain so much detail that they really should be on display year round. It is tradition however to put the dolls in storage right after the festival. Old superstition has it that families who are slow in putting back their “hina ningyo” (girl dolls) after the festival would have difficulties marrying off their daughters.
For those of you who would like to see such dolls, Katsuura city in Chiba has been running a public “Big Hina Matsuri” display outdoors on March 3rd each year since January 2001. The display is truly overwhelming, and an amazing sight to behold.
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From all of us here at Taste Japan – here’s hoping you have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New year wherever you may be.