Sigh…. How can I avoid writing about the last day of GW? After all today is Boy’s Day. Oops. I mean Children’s Day. Huh?! There is some confusion about this. Kodomo no Hi does translate into Children’s Day. But traditionally it was the counterpart to Girl’s Day, which falls on March 3. There’s something about odd months that brings out the Japanese holidays. 1/1 is Oshōgatsu, 3/3 is Girl’s Day, 5/5 is Boy’s Day or Children’s Day, 7/7 is Tanabata (not a national holiday, but widely celebrated). 9/9 and 11/11 have their own peculiarities based on puns, though, again, not national holidays.
So, koi nobori are flown on and around Kodomo no Hi. You used to see huge ones flying high from rooftops, but these days the smaller ones flown from tiny outside spaces are more common.
I had a surprise when I went to the sentō my first year in Japan and found “stuff” in the bath. I was with an American friend and she was on the verge of tossing these greens out and then a kind obāsan explained it to me. This was shōbuyu and these iris roots were meant to be there and had significance. It is said that they ward off evil spirits and foster the warrior spirit in little boys. Who knew?
Though I have a huge set of dolls that I purchased for my daughter for her holiday, I only have this small display for my son. He has plenty of warrior spirit!
- Kodomo no Hi – 子供の日 Children’s Day or Boy’s Day in Japan. It falls on May 5. Note that Girl’s Day is NOT a national holiday, but Boy’s Day is. Which may be why it is now diplomatically called Children’s Day.
- Oshōgatsu – お正月 New Year’s. The Japanese celebrate it on January 1, i.e. not when China does.
- Tanabata – 七夕 a festival that generally falls on July 7, but varies from region to region.
- koi nobori – 鯉のぼり carp kites on a stick. See illustration. If you have a son, you’ll display them.
- sentō -銭湯 public bath
- obāsan – おばあさん grandmother, granny, or any old woman of this age. (I am one now and I wear it with pride)
- shōbuyu – 菖蒲湯 Bath with iris bulbs in it for Children’s Day