Kodomo no Hi, Children’s Day
Kodomo no Hi in Japanese Tradition
Children’s Day has its roots in an older observance on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year: Tango no Sekku, a day for young samurai to honor the traditions of their warrior fathers and grandfathers and learn about the virtues of courage, loyalty, perseverance, and honor. Samurai families displayed suits of armor and heirloom swords, boys took part in mock battles, and family crests flew proudly from banners on bamboo poles above the rooftops of their homes. After World War II, the festival was broadened to include all children and renamed Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s Day.
Celebrated in Japan today on May 5, Children’s Day festivities now emphasize the health and well-being of all children, and events have expanded to include athletic meets for boys and girls and outdoor activities of all kinds. Only the colorful koi banners that fly from apartment building balconies and miniature displays of replica helmets remind us of the festival’s samurai past. Koi remain the enduring symbol of perseverance, for like the salmon, koi swim upstream against all odds to spawn, inspiring the Chinese legend of “Climbing the Dragon Gate” in which a fearless koi swims up a waterfall to become a dragon.
In most years, the Portland Japanese Garden holds festival celebrations on the weekend days closest to the traditional holiday dates. In 2013, the Garden will present a special family event on September 15, in honor of the Garden’s 50th anniversary. At this event, visitors will be able to experience aspects of each of the five festivals in a single day, for an exciting overview of the Garden’s festival programming and a very special anniversary celebration.
“Our family really enjoyed Kodomo No Hi at the Portland Japanese Garden. My boys had a wonderful time using the map as a scavenger hunt. They did not want to leave! I enjoyed the serenity and the nostalgia, which reminded me of walking in a park with Oobaasan so long ago. I am very happy that there is a place nearby that I can bring my children to help them appreciate their quarter-Japanese heritage.”
- Visitors to Kodomo no Hi -