A Japanese Event in May – The Children’s Day (子供の日)

Compare to other countries, the Japan has many national holidays. As you may know Japan is at so called [Golden Week] holiday right now. It has started 29th of April this year and this long holiday will end 5th May this year. However, some people might take extra days to continue their holiday until the Sunday 9th. During this Golden Week holiday there are continuous public holidays. First of all, 29th April is a Showa Day, then 3rd of May is the constitution Memorial Day, Green Day is 4th, the last public holiday in May is 5th – Children’s Day, which marks the end of Golden Week.

The Children’s Day – kodomo no hi/子供の日

An another way of saying is [Boy’s festival].


What is the Children’s Day?

Children’s Day is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May 5 and is the final celebration in Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948. It is on this day that the Japanese equivalent of the Dragon Boat Festival (端午の節句, Tango no Sekku) is held. On this day, and for some time before it, families who have a boy in their home may fly koinobori and decorate their homes with armor or samurai dolls by Wikipedia

The history of Children’s Day

The day to gratitude to mothers

It is also the day to show appreciation to their mothers. Japanese government established as 5th of May is not only the day to respect of children’s personality and to celebrate their happiness but also to appreciate their mothers at the same time. Today as the Dragon Boat Festival is much focused and is emphasized, people seems to think that it is a special day for boys, however, [Children’s Day] was originally for celebration for mothers and children to have healthy and rich life.

The Dragon Boat Festival

It has been said that Dragon Boat Festival based on an event which was held in China at old time. On 5th May, some events which used [shoubu] were held in China. It had been believed that the strong scent that the shoubu has protected from sicknesses and disasters.

[Dragon Boat Festival] become [Children’s Day] in Edo Period

こ‌ど‌も‌の‌日」‌は‌男‌の‌子‌の‌お‌祝‌い‌の‌日?「端‌午‌の‌節‌句」‌と‌の‌違‌い‌を‌解‌説!‌‌ | 人形の東玉

Originally, the Dragon Boat Festival was the event to avoid from sickness and disasters. During Edo priod, it was established as a ceremony day for Tokugawa Shogunate. When a shogun had a baby boy, they celebrated by displaying *[Uma jirushi] and *[nobori] in front of the palace. Later, this custom was spread among warriors then spread into citizens.

Also inside the warriors’ house, they used to displayed their armor and their helmet to dry them out prior to a rainy season in May. Soon this custom changed as the decoration for Dragon Boat Festival on which the warrior celebrated for boy’s safe growth and his family’s prosperity.

*Uma-jirushi were massive flags used in feudal Japan to identify a daimyō or equally important military commander on the field of battle. They came into prominence during the Sengoku period. Wikipedia

*Nobori (幟) is a Japanese banner. They are long, narrow flags, attached to a pole with a cross-rod to hold the fabric straight out and prevent it from furling around the rod; this way, the field is always visible and identifiable.

What do Japanese do?

Display the May’s Warrior Dolls (Gogatsu Ningyo) 5月人形を飾る


On 5th MAY, the Japanese families display May’s Warrior Dolls -[Gogatu Ningyo], hoping their children to grow strong and powerful. A armor and a helmet mean to protect the children from disasters and sicknesses.

Hoist koinobori 鯉のぼりあげる

Photo by AC

Koinobori means “carp steamer” in Japanese, is a carp-shapes windsock. It has been thought to be of good fortune. Putting the koinobori up with a hope for the children’s healthy growth. Putting up Koinobori started in Edo period

Have a shoubuyu (しょうぶゆ/Sweet flag bath)


As I have mentioned earlier, The Chinese people deeply believed that the shoubu could protect from sickness and disasters. They appeared to hung the shoubu under the roof to protect evils as well. This belief traveled to the neighboring country, Japan too.

The shoubu is said to be good for blood circulation, moisturizing effect and rheumatism. Because of that, it has also been said that having a shobuyu protects from the strong Summer heat in Japan so that they could stay stronger and to healthily over come the Summers.

What do Japanese eat and why?

Takenoko (筍)


Takenoko (literally, “bamboo child”) are the ivory coloured crisp and tender shoots of bamboo that grow underground. Freshly dug takenoko are sweet in taste, meaning that they can even be eaten raw as takenoko sashimi.


Takenoko has a meaning of growing up straight and healthy. Any food used Takenoko is fine for Children’s Day.



An chimaki was food originally made in China.  In China, the chimaki is thought to be a symbol of high loyalty. Because of that, parents let their child eat wishing them grow a loyal child. It has been said that this customs came to Japan during Heian period.

The Chinese chimaki is wrapped with a bamboo leaf (Sasa no ha). I am quite sure if we go to an Chinese restaurant we can order it.

Japanese CHIMAKI

On the other hand, the Japanese chimaki is wrapped with an Cogon grass leaf (chimakya no ha) although some prefectures still use a bamboo leaf. The chimaki made on Children’s Day is like dango, sweet mochi.

Kashiwa mochi


Speaking of Children’s Day, Kashiwa mochi is the must item to eat. The scent of [kashiwa/かしわ] leaf stimulates one’s appetite. The Japanese started eating the Kashiwa mochi in Edo period.

Kashiwa mochi is a Japanese sweet of white mochi with sweet red beans inside, wrapped in a Kashiwa leaf. Unlike a Sakura mochi wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf, which is made for Girl’s Day (Hinamatsuri), the kashima leaf is not eatable. If you are interested in Girl’s Day, please check my blog posted in March.

By they way, there seems to be three kinds of anko inside the kashiwa mochi. They are sweet mashed beans, strained red beans and miso an.

The old oak leaf stays without dropping during Winters until new sprouts appears. Because of this nature, it has been regarded as a good fortune plant and to symbolize the prosperity of one’s descendants.

The Children’s Day is for all children

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Finally, Children’s Day today is for not only boys, in fact for all children! Happy Children’s Day!!!

Do you have a Children’s Day in your country? If so what do you do?

Thanks for reading my blog. ありがとう。

About mkchatinjapanese

I am a native Japanese who teaches Japanese to non-Japanese speaker as a private tutor. Teach from a beginner to Intermediate level. location in London.
This entry was posted in Japanese custom, JAPANESE EVENTS, JAPANESE FOOD, JAPANESE LIFE. Bookmark the permalink.

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