Carping on

Koi-noburi flyingKoi-noburi flying

I’ve always loved the Japanese carp flags (koi-noburi) and their futile yet graceful struggle against the wind, but until today I never knew why they were flown.

We’re coming to the end of Golden Week, a fantastic week for Japanese with 4 national holidays falling within a seven-day stretch. Midori no hi (みどりの日, Greenery Day, April 29), kenpou kinenbi (憲法記念日, Constitutional Memorial Day, May 3), kokumin no kyuujitsu (国民の休日, Citizen’s Holiday, May 4) and finally kodomo no hi (こどもの日, Children’s Day) – today.

Until 1948, the 5th day of the 5th month was known as tango no sekku (端午の節句). Tan means edge or ‘start of’ and go represents the 7th sign of the zodiac, which corresponds to the month of May. Sekku means seasonal festival. So it translates as a start of season (spring) festival and in ancient times was a celebration of new beginnings. But tango no sekku has come to mean Boy’s Festival – an auspicious day when parents pray for the health and success of their sons.

The carp was chosen as it is seen as the most spirited of fish, able to power its way up fast-flowing streams. It stands for courage and success in the face of adversity and is a symbol of manliness and the overcoming of life’s difficulties.

PS It’s interesting that although it’s been redesignated as Children’s Day, it still remains dominated by the tango no sekku traditions. There is a separate girls’ day, but it doesn’t have anywhere near as cool flags 🙂