Children’s Day

Writer: Karen W.
Translator: Ezekiel K.

Hello everyone. Did you read my last article on “Ohinasama” (Dolls’ Day)? This time, I would like to introduce “Children’s Day,” which falls on the last day of the Golden Week in May. What do you think of when you hear the word “Children’s Day”? Let’s take a look at what kind of event it is, focusing on its origin.

What is Children’s Day?

Children’s Day was originally called “Tango-no-Sekku,” an ancient event that has continued since the Nara period (710-794). The word “Tango” means the first horse day of the month and was not limited to the month of May. As mentioned in the article “Setsubun” on Japanese culture, it was believed in Japan that illness and misfortune were likely to occur at the change of seasons. Therefore, on “Tango-no-hi,” the day of the changing of the seasons, events were held to avoid illness and misfortune. On this day, there were customs of stacking yomogi herbs, bathing orchids, and drinking sake soaked in the iris, which was considered to ward off bad luck. In the Nara period (710-794), the imperial family and their subjects believed that these plants were thought to ward off illness and evil spirits. In addition to this, they used to perform yabusame (horseback archery, a ritual in which the archer shoots a bow while riding a horse) to exterminate bad demons that were believed to bring misfortune.

It is said that it was not until the Edo period (1603-1867) that people began to celebrate the coming of age of boys by decorating carp streamers and “Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls),” as they do today. In the Heian period (794-1185), children played stone fighting with paper helmets decorated with irises. Later, during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), “blow torrents” were erected by attaching a cloth to bamboo poles in the samurai society. These things are considered to be the prototype of today’s “Tango-no Sekku,” but most of them are inherited from the Edo period when the development of doll art and “carp streamers” were started by the merchant class to wish for the healthy growth of their children. The ancient court customs of stacking yomogi herbs, bathing in orchids, and drinking sake soaked in irises to ward off bad luck gradually fell into disuse with the advent of the Kamakura period (samurai society), and thus the style of “Tango-no Sekku” has changed from that of today. Even though the custom changed with the arrival of the male-dominated samurai society, decorating iris leaves was still associated with “Shobu” (to take up arms), and it seems to have changed into an event to celebrate the growth of boys. During the Edo period (1603-1867), May 5 became an important holiday for the Tokugawa shogunate and was dedicated to celebrating the shogun. When a boy was born to the Shogun, a horse marker or banner was erected at the entrance of the Omote Palace of the castle to celebrate.


What do we do?

 Generally, two major things are done at Dragon Boat Festival. First, carp streamers and Gogatsu dolls are decorated. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, these have been done since the Edo period (1603-1868).


How Everyone Spends the Day

Do you know what to do on “Tango-no Sekku,” a part of “Japanese culture”? Here, we would like to introduce how TIU students spend Tango-no Sekku.

Student A: “We eat Kashiwa Mochi (rice cake with sweet red bean paste) and decorate the Kabuto (Japanese warrior’s helmet) at home.”

Student B: “We go to my grandmother’s house and have a family BBQ.

Student C: “I will play with my family at the park because children should play outside energetically”

Student D: “I will take an iris bath to warm myself.

Thank you for reading this far, it seems that TIU students spend more time together with their families than decorating Kabuto and Koinobori (carp streamers). What kind of Children’s Day or “Tango no Sekku” do you spend time on? Have a good time!

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