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  • Juju Kurihara

Armor, Flying Carps, It's the Boys' Day in Japan

Updated: May 10, 2023

Today, the 5th of May is Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day) in Japan. It says Children's Day but this is actually Boys' Day. The Girls' Day (Momo no Sekku) was the 3rd of March just to remind you.


These days you see flying carps (Koinobori/鯉のぼり) everywhere in Japan. Some are stuck on the rooftops and some are hanging down like laundry.

And here is the song about Koinobori and the translation below.

やねより たかい こいのぼり

yaneyori takai koi nobori

おおきい まごいは おとうさん

ookii magoi wa otou san

ちいさい ひごいは こどもたち

chiisai higoi wa kodomo tachi

おもしろそうに およいでる

omoshiro souni oyoi deru

Koi nobori, much higher than any roof-tops

The biggest carp is the father

and small carps are his children

All swimming enjoyably


In side the house, the family decorates armor (yoroi, kabuto)for their boys. This is one of those things that their parents would buy when the couple have a baby boy. This is a tradition, wishing that their boys grow as strong as samurai.

This is a quite basic one, just a helmet (kabuto)and some adorments.

full kabuto

But the family has a bit of spare money or is a little showing off, it could be like this.

A full armor set.

One of my school friend's family was relatively wealthy and once I went to her house who has two brothers and there was a full armor decolation and it looked like the one I would see in a museum.


Some family may decorate this doll, Kintarou (金太郎). He is a protagonist of a Japanese old story who was a very strong little boy and beat a bear.

So this doll can be sent as a present for the Boys' Day, wishing that the boy grows strong.

Maybe I can talk about this story another time.

This is very important. What do we eat for Kodomo no Hi?

kashiwa mochi

Kashiwa mochi (柏もち)

Kashiwa mochi is a rice cake with anko (read beans) paste inside and wrapped with ork leaf.

Why ork. Ork leaves don't fall out until new leaves come out. From this reason, people used ork tree as a symbol of the family that never becomes extinct.


This tradition came from China.

Once upon a time, in China there was a poet called Qu Yuan. He was a patriotic man and people liked him. But one day he got disgraced and he threw himself to the river.

People threw rice and offerings to greve for the poet. But the dragon lived in this river ate them all. So the spirit of the poet came out and asked the people to wrap the rice with melia leaves which dragons hate. After that Qu Yuan could eat the rice.

The rice can be white or tasted with some veggies or chicken, and it's cooked steamed. It's quite heavy food but tasty.


We eat tai fish (bream/鯛) too.

I personally love this fish, even in sashimi too, but this fish is relatively expensive in Japan.

Why bream? That's because the sound of bream in Japanese- "TAI" share the sound of aouspicious- MEDETAI, and considered as a good luck food.


Sekihan (赤飯)

Japanese people prepare sekihan for any celebration.

But why?

It's about the colour. It was believed that the colour red had a power to protect from any bad spirits.


Or they eat Takenoko Gohan (竹の子ご飯).

Takenoko is a bamboo shoot. It doesn't taste much but you more like enjoy the texture.

I prefer this than sekihan actually.

boy of the house

Usually Kodomo no Hi is an exciting day for grandparents more than the parents.

And as you see, grandmas are full operation and a boy can have such a feast!!!

I've never had a meal like this in my life.

shoubu yu

After all excitement and feast, we have a bath with shoubu yu (calamus bath/菖蒲湯) at night.

Shoubu has been considered as a medical herb that protect us from evil spirits.

Yes, we are superstitious.

As I'm a girl, I only had the last bit, the bath. I don't like sekihan, don't like anko paste and we never had chimaki in my house. Oh, well.

Now Golden Week has been a half way through and some people are already depressed by thinking about going back to work on Monday. Come on, we still have 3 more days to go!

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