May the 5th is Children’s Day in Japan. It was originally a celebration for boys, and was known as Tango-no-Sekku. In 1948, this day became a national holiday, with the aim to wish all children happiness and to thank mothers. There are many customs for wishing health and showing gratitude that people do on this day.

One of the first things that would pop into your mind when you hear Kodomo-no-hi, the Japanese word for Children’s Day, would probably be Koi-nobori. Koi is a type of fish (known as carp) that is usually found in Japanese ponds. They can live in swampy lakes and ponds, so koi are identified as fish with vitality and the power to survive. On the 5th, colorful streamers in the shape of koi are tied onto the top of a long pole. The koi streamers sway in the wind as if they are swimming upwards. This expresses the success and health of the child.

Originally, Children’s Day celebrated boys, so there was a tradition to display a Kabuto (Japanese samurai armor) for the boy. This custom rooted in tradition, and is still popular among families with a young boy. At schools or with their families, children make paper kabuto helmets for fun. Bathing with shoubu leaves is another custom that most families do on this day. Shoubu leaves are said to chase away evil spirits. Also, they were used as a type of medicine since ancient China, and actually have a good effect on health. The leaves are pointy and resemble Japanese samurai swords, so the leaves were a symbol of strength and success like the kabuto.