May is a busy month in Japan. It begins with the festive Golden Week holidays which includes the Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpou Kinenbi) on May 3, Greenery Day (Midori no Hi) on May 4, and lastly, Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi) on May 5. Let’s learn more about the unique traditions done in the spirit of Kodomo no Hi.

Children’s Day in Japan was originally called Tango-no Sekku, a celebration for boys. In 1948, the government declared this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the growth and happiness of all children, and it was renamed “Kodomo-no Hi.” As part of the event, people display traditional decorations called kabuto (samurai helmets) and gogatsu-ningyo (samurai dolls) in their homes. Families with boys raise or fly carp-shaped flags called “koinobori.” A symbol of power since the Edo period, koinobori streamers represent the families’ hope for their children to grow up strong like the carp fish. Children’s Day would not be complete without traditional sweets. People enjoy kashiwa mochi (a rice cake with sweet bean paste) and chimaki (a sweet rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves).

The fifth day of the fifth month is indeed a special day for children in Japan. It is the final day of the golden week and a time to express wishes for a child’s bright future.