About Kids' day and Koinobori | Motivist Japan


As we mentioned in our previous post, May 5 is “Kids' Day” in Japan. More specifically, it is “Boys' Day”. This day is meant to wish boys a healthy, happy future. Japanese people often display “banners” (made of paper or fabric) floating in the wind. They are carps. But why carps?

According to the Japanese tradition, carps are strong, resilient and persevering since they go upstream. The custom for families consists in having a black carp representing the father of the household, a smaller banner that is red for the older son. If there are more boys in the family, a blue, then a green and an orange (or violet, depending on the location) are added to the string. This is explained in a song that all Japanese kids learn in kindergarten. It goes as follows:

“やねより たかい こいのぼり

Higher than the roof are the koinobori


おおきい まごいは おとうさん

The large carp represents the father

ちいさい ひごいは こどもたち

The smaller carps represent the children

おもしろそうに およいでる

It seems they are all having fun swimming”


This is also the time to display another fine decoration, the “satsuki ningyo” (“the doll of May”). This is a samurai, symbol of strength. Like hina matsuri dolls, it is often a gift of grandparents to their grand kids.

The celebration that takes place on May 5 is just one example of the strong tradition withheld in Japan. To most foreigners, it is often fascinating to learn and discover Japanese culture. To some, it is surprising to see how vivace the tradition still is in Japan. Obviously this is a big part of this country's charm.