May 5th is Children’s Day in Japan. The festival is centuries old and began as Boys’ Day. In 1948 the government declared May 5th as Children’s Day honoring both boys and girls. Mothers are also honored on this festival day.
Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, many students are more aware of and interested in the children of Japan. Many are participating in fundraisers to help victims and learning about Children’s Day is another way to share Japanese culture with children.
What are the traditions and symbols of Children’s Day?
Families fly paper or cloth “carp” streamers for the festival of Children’s Day on May 5th. There is a carp for each child on the family’s streamer. The carp on the top is the largest and represents the oldest child, with each carp getting smaller to symbolize the younger and youngest children.
Why are carp symbols of children for the Children’s Day festival?
The carp, called koi in Japanese, swims upstream against the current and is a symbol of strength, courage and determination. The carp kites represent a wish for the Japanese sons and daughters to grow up to brave and strong.
Japanese Children’s Day vocabulary:
Carp = koi
Carp kites = Koinobori
Children’s Day = Kodomo no hi
Japanese Children’s Day crafts:
The most obvious craft for Children’s Day is to create colorful carp streamers but there are a variety of fun crafts and projects to celebrate Children’s Day. You can find instructions and photos of each of these fun Japanese crafts at the Activity Village’s Children’s Day and Japanese Crafts pages.
1. Carp kite streamers can be created using paper, tissue paper or fabric scraps and a piece of string.
2. Japanese fans are fun and easy to make using folded paper and crafts sticks.
3. Blossom tree crafts can be created with a small container, twigs, pink tissue paper and glue. For those who enjoying sewing, blossom trees can be stitched onto fabric.
4. Samurai helmets are a kid favorite and can be crafted from thin cardboard, paper and tape or a stapler.
5. Zen gardens are an especially fun Children’s Day project. You’ll need a shallow dish, sand and smooth rocks.
6. Origami is a fun and challenging Japanese craft that uses origami paper and creativity.
7. Otedama are beanbags sewn from kimono scraps. These are traditionally a gift from grandmothers.
You can also use 7 Children’s Books about Japan to extend the learning about Japanese culture while your family or classroom celebrates Japan’s Children’s Day.