Note to Parents: Exploring traditions from other cultures is one way to expand your family’s view of the world and cultivate a heart for the peoples that God loves. Learn about Children’s Day, an important national holiday in Japan.
The Japanese have honored boys and girls since ancient times. In 1948, Children’s Day became a national holiday. On May 5, schools and offices are closed and families spend time together. Special events highlight the talents of children. Families attend children’s art exhibits and music recitals as well as plays performed by young actors and actresses. At the national stadium in Tokyo, thousands of children participate in the Kids Olympics.
The most common decorations are carp-shaped windsocks called koinobori (koy-noh-BOH-ree). Arranged from biggest to smallest on a long string, each colorful fish represents one person in the family. Families attach these strings to apartment balconies or hoist them up tall poles outside their homes.The carp seem to swim as they flutter in the wind.
Real carp are powerful fish that can swim against strong currents. Japanese parents tell their children an ancient legend of a carp who swam upstream to the top of waterfall. As a reward for its perseverance, the carp transformed into a golden dragon. Carp symbolize strength and determination, two qualities that Japanese parents believe children need to become successful.
On special shelves in their homes, families display Japanese warrior dolls along with samurai helmets and armor. Boys and girls often make helmets from folded sheets of newspaper to wear on Children’s Day. These objects symbolize bravery and courage, characteristics that Japanese parents believe children need to face obstacles in their lives.
Bakeries and markets sell special Children’s Day treats. One popular dessert is a sticky rice cake filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves. Oak leaves symbolize good luck and a long life, two things that Japanese parents wish for their children.
In the midst of Children’s Day festivities, Japanese boys and girls set aside time to thank the adults who love and take care of them — their parents, relatives, and teachers.
Use art supplies to design and cut out a set of fish that represents your family. The father fish (black) is the biggest. The mother fish (red) is medium-sized. Smaller fish (any other colors) represent the children. Get a long piece of string. Use paper clips, tape, or clothespins to attach the fish to the string in order, from biggest to smallest. Select a good place to hang up your koinobori. Discuss why the Japanese chose a carp to symbolize determination. Read Deuteronomy 5:29 together. Talk about what God desires for parents to pass on to their children that will make them truly successful in life. Pray that as Japanese families trust in Jesus, He will give them hope for the future.
As a family, think of things or people in your own culture that represent courage and strength. They can be real or imaginary. Read Joshua 1:9 together. Discuss our true source of courage and strength. Pray that Japanese families will hear about the true God and depend on Him.