Children's Day

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  • Other Names: 端午の節句 (tango no sekku)
  • Japanese: こどもの日 (Kodomo no Hi)

Kodomo no Hi, literally "children's day," but commonly known as Boys' Day, is an annual national holiday in Japan, celebrated on May 5th. Traditionally known as tango no sekku and celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the festival marked the beginning of summer, and is associated with the coming of age of boys; it coincides, too, with festivals for the iris, a summer flower.

Observance of the festival often includes the display of koinobori - flags or windsocks in the shape of a koi, or carp. The koi nobori are associated with a traditional belief that there is a magical waterfall which carp attempt to swim to the top of; climbing the waterfall is exceptionally difficult, but those carp that succeed are transformed into powerful dragons. This motif of carp climbing a waterfall is very commonly seen in paintings as well. The associations with young boys (as well as girls) working hard, striving, in order to blossom into talented, smart, strong, and/or otherwise successful adults is clear.

Banners depicting Shôki the Demon Queller were also often hung at this time, traditionally, in order to ward off evil spirits. Sheaves of irises were also sometimes hung in the eaves of one's home, likewise in the belief that the aroma of the irises would keep away evil spirits.[1]

"Doll Festival" (hina matsuri), celebrated on the third day of the third month, has separate historical origins, but has today come to be a "Girls' Day" festival paired with Kodomo no hi.


  1. Craig, Teruko (trans.). Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai. University of Arizona Press (1988), 159.