The Japanese Boys’ Festival called “Tango no Sekku”, plus a Song for the Holiday called “Koinobori”

Tango no Sekku is celebrated on May 5th. In Japan, this day is called Boys’ Festival. It’s been celebrated for over a millennium. Originally it was celebrated in the houses of warriors. It celebrated boys’ courage and determination. Many of the symbols of this day are about having the character of a warrior. Eventually this day became important to all households in Japan with boys.

After WWII, Boys’ Day became toned down. This holiday officially became known as Children’s Day or Kodomo no hi. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate the health and happiness of all children. But many people still see it as Boys’ Festival.

Large carp windsocks, called koinobori, are displayed outside houses of families with boys. There’s one windsock for each boy in the house. The largest windsock is for the oldest son of the house.

Photo of Koinobori - Carp Windsocks in Japan

The carp is a symbol of Tango no Sekku, because carp are considered strong and determined. They’re able to swim upstream against the flow of the water. This is a day for families to celebrate their sons’ strength and character.

Warrior dolls and helmets, armor and swords are also displayed in houses with boys.

The symbolic flower of Tango no Sekku is a type of iris called shobu. The shobu has long leaves that resemble swords. Boys traditionally take shobu leaf baths on this day. The shobu is so important on this day that sometimes the festival is called Shobu no Sekku or Iris Festival.

One traditional food eaten on this day is kashiwa mochi. It’s a rice cake steamed with sweet beans and wrapped in an oak leaf. Another traditional food is chimaki, which is rice wrapped in bamboo leaves.

Here’s a traditional song for Tango no Sekku called Koinoburi or Carp Windsocks…

Koinobori
(Japanese Transliteration)

Yane yori takai koinobori.
Okii magoi wa otoosan.
Chisai higoi wa kodomotachi.
Omoshiro soni oyideru.

Carp Windsocks
(English)

Carp windsocks are above the roof.
The biggest carp is the father,
The smaller carp are children,
They’re enjoying swimming in the sky.

I welcome any midis or mp3’s of Koinobori, the Japanese text and also any comments about the traditions of this day.

Come visit the Mama Lisa’s World Japan Page for more Songs from Japan!

12 Responses to “The Japanese Boys’ Festival called “Tango no Sekku”, plus a Song for the Holiday called “Koinobori””

  1. Sushimatic » Blog Archive » Children’s Day Says:

    […] I learned a lot about this festival from Mama Lisa’s World Blog, and I found a link to the Koinobori song there. Here it is – (Original MP3 site) […]

  2. Anon Says:

    Hey,
    I am doing a Japanese Public Holiday powerpoint presentation for school
    and we need to have a song for each public holiday can you please email me a link to the website where you found the Koinobori song please.
    I will be needing it in the next week, it’s urgent. So please email it to me.
    My email address is above.
    Thanks heaps,
    Anonymous

  3. unknown Says:

    this is great!

  4. Teaching Kids about Japanese Festivals | Mama Lisa's World Blog Says:

    […] MP3 of Koinobori You can read more about Tango no Sekku […]

  5. Celebrating Children’s Day with Kimono Origami | Cheng & Tsui Says:

    […] May 5, Kodomo no Hi (子供の日): Children’s Day in Japan. The festival was originally called Tango no Sekku (Boys’ Day) until several decades ago, when it was renamed Kodomo no Hi to celebrate the happiness […]

  6. Celebrating Children’s Day with Origami Kimonos | Cheng & Tsui Says:

    […] May 5, Kodomo no Hi (子供の日): Children’s Day in Japan. The festival was originally called Tango no Sekku (Boys’ Day) until several decades ago, when it was renamed Kodomo no Hi to celebrate the happiness […]

  7. Boy’s Day | Traditional Japanese Living Says:

    […] ancient Chinese custom where the royal guards wore ceremonial helmets and carried bows and arrows. Tango-No-Sekku used to be celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th moon of the Lunar or Chinese calendar but the date […]

  8. The Koinobori: wind kites for a bright future | Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts Says:

    […] means carp streamer, are carp-shaped windsocks that are traditionally flown in commemoration of the Tango no Sekku in Japan (national children’s day). In this traditional event, these windsocks are made in the honor for a […]

  9. Behind the Musha Ningyo | Japanese dolls and toys. Says:

    […] The words “Musha Ningyo” literally meant “warrior dolls” when they are translated. More often than not, these are the dolls referred to be in use during the Boy’s Day Festival that is celebrated every fifth of May in Japan. […]

  10. Kathleen Says:

    Thank you for the information on Boys’ Day. We have several grandsons and nephews.

  11. Doug Says:

    I have a collection of these warrior dolls that has been in my family around the turn of the century. Most of my family have since past and haven’t explained about these dolls. I would like to know more.
    i tried clicking on your site but no site. Can you help?

    Thanks doug

  12. Lisa Says:

    Hi Doug, If you can email me some pics, I can ask a Japanese friend about them for you. -Lisa

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