What is Tango no Sekku, the traditional Japanese event that wishes for the growth of children?

The celebration for boys, born out of Bushido: the way of the warrior

In Japan, from the beginning of April, households with boys decorate their houses with samurai warrior figurines. Suits of samurai armor and kabuto helmets are symbols of protection, protecting the children’s lives. Dolls modelled after brave warriors like Momotaro and Benkei who appear in old Japanese folk tales are instilled with the wish that boys will grow up to be brave and strong like them.

On the other hand, koinobori (the fabric carp-shaped wind sock streamers flown on rooftops) originate from a Chinese legend, in which a carp swam upstream and became a dragon that ascended to the heavens. They are flown as part of an old custom, in the hope that young boys will be successful in society, although Children’s Day has now come to celebrate the happiness of both boys and girls.

samurai warrior figurine (left)/Koinobori (right)

What do Japanese people eat on Tango no Sekku?

Kashiwa-mochi are a type of traditional Japanese sweet. They are made from a sweet anko (bean paste) filling surrounded by mochi (a type of soft rice cake made from rice flour), and wrapped in a kashiwa oak leaf. Owing to the fact that the old leaves do not fall from kashiwa oak trees until the new buds come through, they are said to bear good luck for the prosperity of one’s descendants.

Chimaki are made by wrapping rice-flour dumplings in sasa (broad-leaf bamboo) leaves and boiling or steaming them. They are said to have been brought to Japan from China along with the tradition of Tango no Sekku itself, and are eaten on Children’s Day in the same way as Kashiwa-mochi.

There is also a custom called shobu-yu, of bathing in a hot bath with Japanese iris leaves, as a way of dispelling illness and misfortune.

From around April onwards, Kashiwa-mochi and Chimaki can be purchased at Japanese confectionary stores, department stores and convenience stores all around Japan. There are also public bath houses where customers can bathe in shobu-yu Japanese iris baths.If you visit Japan during this time of year, why not experience Tango no Sekku for yourself?

Kahiwa-mochi (left) /Chimaki (right)

Go to see a stunning display of koinobori carp streamers

From around mid-April, many events are held all over Japan at which large numbers of koinobori carp streamers are flown in preparation for Children’s Day. The weather is good at this time of year, so why not take the opportunity to enjoy one aspect of the traditional event of Tango no Sekku?

Tokyo Tower 333 Koinobori Streamers, Tokyo

In honor of the fact that Tokyo Tower is 333m (1092.5ft) tall, the outside of the tower’s front entrance is decorated with 333 koinobiori streamers.

Event period: April 7 to May 6

Koinobori no Sato Matsuri, Gunma Prefecture

In 2005, a total of 5,283 carp streamers were flown across five locations in Tatebayashi City, earning the event recognition as the largest of its kind. The main event location is the Tsuruodagawa River, which flows through the city, with around 4,300 streamers being flown.

Event period: March 25 to May 6

Event venue: Tsuruudagawa River, Shiromachi, Tatebayashi-shi, Gunma, Japan

Getting There:20 minutes’ walk from Tatebayashi Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line

Niyodogawa River Paper Carp Streamers, Kochi Prefecture

The Niyodogawa Revier which flows through Kochi Prefecture is known for the high clarity of its water. During the event, numerous carp streamers made from nonwoven fabrics using local specialty washi (traditional Japanese paper) technology swim in the middle reaches of the river.

Event period: May 3 to May 5

Event venue: Hakawa, Ino, Agawa-gun, Kochi (under the Niyodogawa bridge)

Getting There:10 minutes’ walk from JR Hakawa Station to the event venue

Tsuetate-onsen Koinobori Matsuri (Carp Streamer Festival), Kumamoto Prefecture

Tsuetate-onsen is said to be the place of origin of the carp streamer festivals that can be seen around Japan today. Around 3,500 streamers are flown high over the Tsuetategawa River.

Event period: April 1 to May 6

Event venue: Shimojo, Oguni, Aso-gun, Kumamoto

Getting There:Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes by expressway bus from Fukuoka Airport International Terminal Bus Terminal, Hakata Bus Terminal (next to JR Hakata Station) and Nishitetsu Tenjin Expressway Bus Terminal (inside the Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) station building). Disembark at Tsuetate-onsen.