Koi Nobori: Children's Day

Every May 5th in Japan, strange flags appear in the sky ... Discover "Koi Nobori," a festival steeped in history and rich in color.

Koi nobori



Like a fish in the air


In Japanese, the word Koi refers to carp and nobori means "flag." For Children's Day, thousands of paper fish, or koinobori,  fill the Japanese sky for this festival.

Carp with multicolored scales take parks and gardens by storm. They wriggle proudly outside town halls and schools. What is the reason for all this ichthyologic agitation? It is May 5th, a public holiday dedicated to children in the archipelago.


The carp, a model of virtue


Why do the Japanese use these colorful fish to celebrate children? In eastern Asia, the carp represents many virtues to which children should aspire.

Indeed, in the Japanese imagination, this fish symbolizes perseverance, energy and strength. This reputation comes from its habit of always swimming up-stream in search of food.




From the Middle Kingdom to Edo-Era Japan


The tradition of Koi Nobori has its roots in the folklore of rural China. An old legend tells the story of a carp that swam up the Yellow River so high and with such tenacity that it transformed into a water snake before taking off into the sky.

After arriving in Japan in the sixth century, the celebration became a more prominent celebration during the Edo period (1603-1868). At the time, Koi Nobori was intended only for boys, as the virtues celebrated were considered to be exclusively male.

Fortunately, customs and times change. Now, the "Kodomo no hi", literally "Children's Day" (another name for Koi Nobori) is for both girls and boys.


A Family in the Wind

Each banner has a specific meaning. Hanging at the end of a bamboo pole, the fish represent the family by whom they are owned.

The first and largest carp, which is black, is called "magoi" and represents the father. The second, or "Higoi" is red and is the mother. The other fish, which are smaller, represent the number of children in the household. Finally, the "fukinashi" a multicolored banner hung above all of these fish, symbolizes the river and its rushing waves.

The festival is the perfect opportunity to experience one of the most popular traditions of the archipelago. If you visit Japan with children, do not hesitate to give them a treat... offer them one of these flying fish. Cheap and decorative, these wind sock-like pennants are available in all mini-markets and makes for an unforgettable and special souvenir!

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