Friday, May 26, 2006

Children's Festival (Boy's Day)

Though I missed the celebration for this on base due to medical stuff, I've seen indications of the festival all over town. The two festivals used to be Girls' Day and Boys' they are the Doll Festival and the Children's Festival--but I don't know why.

Now, 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 love and care they receive from their parents." Japanese families celebrate Tango-no-Sekku, the Boys' Festival, within the Children's festival. Big, brightly colored windsock-like banners shaped like carp and called Koi-Nobori are hung outside. The carp has become the symbol of the Boys' Festival. A banner is flown for each son in the family, a very large one for the eldest, the others ranging down in size. The banners are flown to symbolize strength, perseverance, and the courage and ability to attain high goals. Carp are seen to be the most spirited of fish, full of energy and power, able to fight their way up swift streams and cascades. The Japanese believe "The carp is an appropriate symbol to encourage manliness and the overcoming of life's difficulties leading to consequent success."

During the Children's festival, dolls are also put out, but not the elaborate emperor/empress dolls with all their trappings that are displayed during the Doll Festival (Girl's Day). Instead, in the family alcove, warrior dolls are displayed, which represent Kintaro, a Herculean boy who grew up to be a general; Shoki, an ancient Chinese general believed to protect people from devils; and Momotaro, the Japanese "David the Giant Killer".

Miniature armor, a sword, and a bow and arrow are displayed as well, along with the family crest on a silk banner, to bring strength and a warrior's spirit to the male children of the house. The flower associated with the festival is the iris, both because the long leaves are thought to be sword-like, and because the Japanese word for Iris, shobu, has the same sound as the kanji which means "strive for success".

I was very sorry to miss the sword dancing displays put on at the base, but maybe next year. I did get a carp banner for our godson...and now that I think about it, I will probably get carp banners for the three niecese as well!

More soon...I still have to do a show-and-tell about my trip to Yokosuka, sightseeing in Kamakura, the Asian Pacific American dinner I attended on the base, and cousin M's visit, with our trips to Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Arita, and the Kashimae Pier in Sasebo. It's been a busy two weeks!