Children’s Day is a Japanese holiday that celebrates the happiness of children.
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Children’s Day also honors parenthood. Known in Japan as Kodomo no Hi, Children’s Day is a festive holiday that is oriented around games and fun traditions. The holiday is celebrated on May 5 each year. Children’s Day is part of Golden Week, so many Japanese people celebrate the holiday while they are on vacation.
Children’s Day celebrations can be traced back to Ancient Japan. Originally, Children’s Day was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. When Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar from the West, the Children’s Day was placed on May 5.
Prior to the 20th century, Children’s Day was referred to as Tango no Sekko, or the Feast of Banners. Tango no Sekko was a holiday that only celebrated boyhood. Furthermore, Tango no Sekko only honored fathers. In 1948, Children’s Day became a public holiday in Japan. The name of the holiday was changed to Kodomo no Hi. Unlike Tango no Sekko, the new Kodomo no Hi holiday celebrated the happiness of both boys and girls. It also honored mothers.
Kodomo no Hi Traditions
Since Kodomo no Hi is an ancient holiday, there are many traditions that Japanese people use to celebrate with their children.
It is a common practice for Japanese parents to hang carp kites, or koinobori, on the outside of their homes on Children’s Day. These carp kites are symbolic of courage and perseverance. The carp was chosen for these attributes because of its ability to swim upstream against the flow of water and time. People hang these carps for good fortune and strength for their children and family. Koinobori have different colors to represent each member of a family. The main koinobori colors are red, black, blue, green, and pink.
Wearing Samuria Costumes
On Children’s Day, many boys dress up as samurais. The samurai is a classic Japanese symbol of strength and nobility, so some people believe that a samurai costume will inspire a young boy to be strong and make decisions that are virtuous. Shops often sell samurai helmets before and during Golden Week. Some families make their own samurai helmets each year.
Displaying Kintaro Dolls
Displaying a Kintaro Doll is a tradition that has been practiced by families with children for a long time. According to a Japanese legend, Kintaro was a boy who was born with an unnatural amount of strength. During childhood, Kintaro performed feats that could not be matched by any of his peers. As an adult, Kintaro used his abilities to fight evil as a legendary warrior. Many people believe that Kintaro is based on a real person who lived during Japan’s Heian period. Because of Kintaro’s success and extraordinary strength, parents display a doll of him. These parents often hope that their children will receive some of Kintaro’s strength.
On May 5, many people in Japan enjoy a variety of foods. One of the most popular treats on Children’s Day is chimaki. Chimaki is a dish consisted of arrowroot rice cakes, dango, and corn. The ingredients are wrapped in a bamboo leaf and steamed.
Many Japanese parents create origami objects and cranes with their children on Children’s Day. This allows parents to spend some time with their children while participating in a traditional activity.
Visiting the Children’s Peace Monument
Many parents take their children to the Children’s Peace Monument on Kodomo no Hi. The Children’s Peace Monument was created to honor the memory of Sadako Sasashi. When Sadako Sasashi was very young, her hometown of Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb. Sadako survived the explosion and she enjoyed the next 10 years of her life as an ordinary child. At the age of 11, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia. Many doctors believe that Sadako’s exposure to atomic radiation in Hiroshima caused her to get leukemia. Sometime after receiving this tragic diagnosis, someone told Sadako about an old legend. According to this legend, a person that makes 1,000 origami cranes will receive one wish. Soon after hearing of this legend, Sadako began making origami cranes with the hope that she could use a wish to cure her illness. Over the course of a year, Sadako made over 600 cranes with a smile on her face. Unfortunatley, Sadako lost her battle with cancer and passed away in 1955. Soon after her passing, the Children’s Peace Monument was erected in Hiroshima. Sadako Sakashi is now a symbol of perseverance in Japan. Children’s Day celebrates the happiness of Sadako Sakashi and all of Japan’s children. Each year, children from various areas of Japan come to the Children’s Peace Monument and leave an origami crane.
Children’s Day, or Kodomo no Hi, is an exciting holiday that celebrates the happiness of children across Japan.