Japanese Carp Streamers

Carp StreamersIn Japan, May 5 is Children’s Day, known as Kodomo-no-hi, which celebrates the health and happiness of children.  Though it was previously known as Boy’s Day, the date was made a national holiday celebrating all children in 1948.

One of the most recognized traditions associated with Children’s Day is the hanging of carp streamers, or koi-nobori, like these.  In Japan, the carp represents courage and perseverance, qualities that it is known for as it swims upstream against the current.  Families hang the kites outside of their houses to symbolize the wish for their children to grow up brave and strong.  Because the tradition dates to when the holiday specifically focused on male children, the streamers are more associated with boys.

Koi-nobori are typically flown from a pole topped with a spinning ornament.  Just below the ornament is a flying-dragon streamer, which looks like a windsock.  Below that are the carp streamers, in decreasing size: first, a black koi-nobori for the father, then a red or pink koi-nobori for the mother, followed by smaller carp of different colors for each child.

This set of carp streamers is on exhibit through June 1 in Children’s Holidays in Japan.

Categories: Artifacts

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