May brings the reminder that in Japan, as in the United States, one of a nation's greatest assets is her children. May 5 is "Children's Day" in Japan, the day to stress the importance of respecting the character of children and promoting their health and happiness. It is also the day for children to express their gratitude for the tender love and care they receive from their parents.
On this day Japanese families celebrate Tango-no-Sekku, the Boys' Festival. With its special customs and observances, it is Japan's way of celebrating the healthy growth and development of her young boys.
If one travels through Japan from the latter half of April to early May, one sees nearly everywhere huge, gay-colored Koi-Nobori, carp-like streamers made of paper or cloth, which fill with wind and seem to swim in the air. Together with long red and white ribbons, the carp are hoisted on a bamboo pole, mounted by a pair of gilded pinwheels, high above the rooftops.
A carp is flown for each son in the family, a very large one for the eldest, the others ranging down in size.
The carp has become the symbol of the Boys' Festival because the Japanese consider it the most spirited of fish, so full of energy and power that it can fight its way up swift-running streams and cascades. Because of its strength and determination to overcome all obstacles, it stands for courage and the ability to attain high goals. The carp is an appropriate symbol to encourage manliness and the overcoming of life's difficulties leading to consequent success.
Why let the truth stand in the way of a good fish story?
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