Japan’s Children’s Day: May 5
Japan’s Children’s Day is a public holiday in Japan.
Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi) is an annual celebration in Japan celebrated on the 5th of May. It used to be known as Boys’ Day. Children’s Day is part of the celebration in Japan’s Golden Week (Ōgata renkyū) which includes Emperor’s Birthday, Shōwa Day, Greenery Day celebrated on April 29, Constitution Memorial Day on May 3, and Greenery Day on May 4.
Japan designates May 5 as a day to remind the society’s role in respecting the rights of children and to promote their general welfare or, quite simply, their enjoyment.
History of Japan’s Children’s Day
Japan’s Children Day was instituted and considered as a national holiday in 1948, barely three years after the end of the Second World War in which Japan was a part.
Children’s Day was originally called Tango no Sekku and was celebrated based on Chinese Lunar Calendar, usually on the 5th day of the 5th moon. When Japan adopted Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1873, the celebration of Tango no Sekku was fixed on May 5.
Tango no Sekku is said to be a celebration of religious in nature as it was celebrated with rituals conducted for the purpose of driving away evil spirits. It used to occur in the beginning of summer or rainy months in Japan. It was later changed to Boy’s Day with distinction given to girls on May 3. In 1948, through a legislation agreed by the then government lawmakers of Japan, May 5 was designated to give thanks to mothers and celebrate the happiness of children which, this time, includes both genders.
Japan’s Children’s Day: Traditions, Customs and Activities
Colorful carp kites known locally as koinobori are especially popular during this celebration. For most families, the number of carp kites symbolizes each family members, strength and happiness because of the kite’s long life and varied color. One notable food eaten during the celebration is kashiwamochi and chimaki, a sweet rice-based delicacy filled with sweetened red beans wrapped in oak leaves in the former or banana leaves on the latter. The bamboo and oak leaves are both symbols to long life and success.
Gogatsu ningyo or May dolls are displayed in both homes and shops. These dollars are also called Samurai Dolls for they are dressed much like that of a traditional samurai. Although most houses display such dollar all year round, most homes display them right before the day of the actual celebration of Children’s Day. Today, majority of producers of these dolls manufacture smaller versions due to the increasing urbanization in Japan where most people prefer small appliances and decorations to accommodate them in small apartments or condo studios.