Category Archives: Japanese life style

Golden Week –

Golde week

In Japan, we have 3 vacation periods every year with the main one being Golden Week that takes place at the end of April to the beginning of May each year. Technically, the 30th April to the 2nd May are not holidays however most Japanese people take those days off to create a well-deserved 8 day long vacation. During this period, transportation and attractions can be difficult to access due to the sheer number of people traveling at that time.

Although there is no consensus as to why the week is called “Golden”, my theory is that the color generates positive images of happiness, excitement, and prosperity which also mirrors people’s moods when they are on holiday.

Golden Week actually consists of 4 national holiday:
– Showa Day (Showa no hi), on April 29th is the birthday of the Emperor Showa, or Hirohito. If the 29th falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday.

– May 3rd is Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi) and is celebrated in honor of the ratification of the Japanese constitution in 1947.

– Greenery Day (Midori no hi) is celebrated on May 4th. It is a day to embrace and be grateful of nature. It honors the environment, as Emperor Showa was a lover of nature, flowers, and plants.

– Finally, Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi or Tango no Sekku) on May 5th is a festival to celebrate children.

Children’s Day: Traditions and Customs

Children’s Day (Kodomo-no-hi) on the 5th May, is the last event in the series of national holidays during Golden Week. Initially, the event was aimed at the celebration of young boys only, however that focus widened to also include all children, with the girls having their own celebration on March 3rd called Hina-Matsuri (girl’s day or doll festival in English).

Towns and families bearing sons decorate their homes with Samurai related pieces, such as armor (Yoroi), helmets (Kabuto), and dolls (called Gogatsu dolls that are modelled after legendary warriors) as they are believed to protect boys’ health and happiness.

Yoroi-Children's day

In addition, carp-shaped windsocks (Koi-nobori) are flown outside, creating the illusion of them swimming when they catch gusts of wind. They represent the energetic spirit of young boys and symbolize future success as carp are tenacious fish that can swim upstream and are even noted to climb waterfalls without giving up. Koinobori consist of three or five different colors and sizes. The biggest black Koinobori is called “Magoi” which is placed on the top of the pole. The middle one is red and called “Higoi”, and the rest are smaller blue or green ones called “Kogoi”. Together they represent a family (Magoi is the Father, Higoi is the Mother and Kogoi are the children). This tradition is slowly fading through time however they can still be seen swimming in the sky in some towns.

Children's day

Many of the customs practiced during Children’s Day have been inspired by Samurai philosophy. For instance, people take special baths using Shobu which are leaves from the iris plant. The term “Shobu” can elicit different meanings and symbolisms (depending on the characters used). Shobu in the martial sense, means to become fearless by strengthening the body and mind via hard training and having the courage to accept and defeat challenges at all costs. This martial meaning also manifests itself with the use of the Shobu plant in the bath as its leaves signify the Japanese sword due to their pointed shape, and are therefore seen as a symbol of strength. It is said that the leaf’s strong aroma cleanses the body of evil spirits and keeps children healthy and strong.

Tradition of Children's day

Before and after Golden Week, Kashiwa-mochi – a rice cake wrapped in an oak leaf is eaten. The oak leaf symbolizes a long-lasting family line as old oak leaves do not fall until a new sprout appears. In the past, this was a serious custom however these days, Kashiwa-mochi are simply enjoyed as seasonal sweets.

Custom for Children's day