I love seeing the growing schools of koinobori swimming in the city sky this time of year. Do you have a koinobori (carp streamer)? I love the colors, the movement and the symbolism. The carp streamers are hung in celebration of Children’s Day which is May 5th. If you have children in the house, the carp streamers are fun to buy and decorate with, or make yourself. I was curious about the symbolism and history of koinobori so did some research. I hope you find the information on the history, where to go and what to make helpful, interesting and fun!
Koinobori – Learn, Go, Make
Symbolism and History
A typical koinobori set consists of, from the top of the pole down, a pair of wheels with a ball-shaped spinning vane, flying streamers and then carp streamers. The first koi is always black and symbolises the father, the second is red and symbolises the mother (in ancient times it symbolised the first son, but mom has #2 spot now), then every son in the house gets a carp streamer usually in the color order of blue, green, purple and orange. Girls are traditionally not included in the koi; instead girls get dolls on Girls Day. However, some more progressive sets can include a pink koi. The Koi range from a few inches long to a few meters long.
The carp was chosen as a symbol for Boys’ Day because it is considered the most spirited and powerful fish which swims up current with a clear goal. Makes sense to me – who wants a child who is not strong and determined. Supposedly the tradition of celebrating Boy’s Day with carp and kabuto started more than 700 years ago. Although it is not clear why the tradition of koinobori started, it is believed to have originated from the samurai battle banners and in celebration of great battles. The May 5th celebration although called “Children’s Day” is really only a celebration for boys. Girls Day is March 3rd.
If you would like to see some great swarms of koinobori in Tokyo, I recommend you visit Tokyo Tower, which has 333 koinobori flying util May 6th. Each koinobori represents one meter of Tokyo tower. If you live in central Tokyo, this is the best spot to visit. Details: Tokyo Tower is open from 9:00 – 22:00 and there is no cost to see the koinobori that are mainly strung over the parking area. The address is 4-2-8 Shiba-koen, Minato-ku, and the phone is 03-3433-5111. website: www.tokyotower.co.jp
Roppongi Midtown also has a wonderful tunnel of hanging Koinobori as you approach 21-21 Design Sight. Super fun to walk under such a family of Koi in bright cool designs. The Sky Tree area also has a beautiful display. If you have time to travel about an hour outside of Tokyo you can go to the Sagamihara Koinobori Festival, Kanagawa-ken (April 29 – May 5th) – The Sagamihara Koinobori Festival (泳げ鯉のぼり相模川) has been held over 30 years to celebrate Children’s Day on May 5th. Five huge wires are hooked over the river and 1,000 koi nobori are hung to swim in the sky. You can get to Sagamihara in about 1.5 hours driving from central Tokyo or 2 hours on train. Location of the koinobori are here (google map). While in the area you can also visit the Sagamigawa Fureai Science Museum Aquarium Sagamihara.
Cool things to buy! – all available at Amazon.co.jp
Mini koinobori set (about 4,000 yen) – This set is the perfect size for an apartment. The pole is about one meter and includes three koi.
Koinobori display set (2,700 yen) – if you do not want to hang some fish out your window this little (21 cm X 15 cm) display is perfect for your shelf or table. Beautifully made and perfect to keep as a keepsake.
Genkinioyoge koinobori book (1,296 yen) – This Japanese book is great for early readers of Japanese, cute story and jolly illustrations.
Make your own koinobori (2,790 yen) – This is a very cool product! Design you own koi set– 1.8 meter plain white koinobori that you then decorate as you wish. Click on this link and see the second image to understand what the plain white version will look like when it arrives (the image above is one that has been decorated).
Cool things to make!
Love these adorable koinobori you can make out of toilet paper rolls. See how to make them at squirrellyminds.com
Great art project using plastic bottles. Make one of these for everyone in your family! Details on how to make are at Childhood101.com
Celebrate Children’s Day on May 5th with a cute Koi cake. This design is from Nyank-kitchen blog (only in Japanese but pictures very clear).
Some lovely shots from Instagram!
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Living in or visiting Japan with Kids? Here are our favorite holidays and celebrations you should know about in Japan!
January – Coming of Age Day – Celebration of Adulthood for people becoming 18-20.
February – Setsubun – Devil Day
May – Boys Day or Kids Day
July – Tanabata
August – Obon
October – Sports Day
October/November – 7-5-3
December –New Years Celebration
Koinobori – Learn, Go, Make!
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