Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kodomo no Hi... Children's Day on 5th of May

The 5th of May is known in Japan as Kodomo no Hi, or simply put, Children's Day. It's actually one of the set of public holidays that makes up the Golden Week. Actually, you would think a day called Children's Day would be a pretty simple affair. Nothing is simple in Japan. The holiday is associated with a festival tango no sekku, which is a seasonal festival that celebrates the changing of seasons (from Spring to Summer)... it is also associated with the Boy's Festival (now that makes at least some sense).

One of the characteristics of the Boy's Festival is the flying of koinobori, or carp (koi) streamers (bori). Actually... you could also call them, wind-socks, but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it. These used to be arranged by the number of boys in the family. Instead, in Japan you will often see these hung out on long poles or wires from the house (especially from balconies)... The carp are meant to represent the vitality of young boys, swimming up stream, ever threatening to turn in to a dragon....

The top "streamer" is the dragon, which signifies the ideal of the man the boy would turn into. It's then followed by a black, red, then blue carp streamer, which are meant to represent the father, the mother and the son respectively. More children = more colours of carp.

Atop the pole is typically found a very odd contraption, yaguruma, which consists of a number of spinning wheels made of arrows, and a strange "propellor" which both spin wildly around in the wind. I have no idea what symbolic meaning this has, other than to be quite flashy.

Now, I thought I'd just put together a few of the photos I've taken today... a bit of self-indulgence.

And this is quite a cheeky shot... from inside the koi! Now that's just not right!....

Another tradition is that of the kabuto... which is a particular type of samurai helmet that is in an ornamental form. This is normally part of a set that is set up each year for Children's (aka Boy's) Day.

The helmet design actually pre-dates the samurai, but is now very much a part of the samurai image. Boys were an important part of samurai households, continuing on the family name and customs. It was for this reason that the tradition evolved of displaying these martial images as a way of warding of bad luck.

The kabuto helmet consisted of the main "bowl" or hachi (in this case emblazoned with a rather vicious looking dragon and horns)...

And an intricately woven neck guard, or shikoro.

To the right stands the sword, or katana, a samurai's symbol of power.

To the left, the bow and arrows, or yumiya.

The dragon is a sign of strength in Japan... and when you're main aim is to intimidate your opponents, you may as well go all out with the bling.


 Now I have to admit these are gifts from doting grandparents in Japan... and I don't want to think about how much they cost... or even how expensive they were to send out to Australia (they are NOT light... no thanks to the rather solid - though beautifully hand painted - display case). 

 But they certainly do allow us to continue L-kun's connection with Japan... to keep hold of a very important part of his life. Something which is not always easy to do.