Boys just want to have a fun too! May in Japan is golden!

Origami KabutoHello! Mishi desu! Time has passed so fast and finally, today is May. There is a big event for boys. I will talk about this event mainly but early May, there is a short vacation time which is called the “Golden Week”. The Golden Week has a weekend and holidays in a row. So Japanese put them together and they get a short vacation time. While the Golden Week, they still have a Hanami.

May in Japan is the great season to spend the time with your family.

Let’s take a look at this month!

 

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Children’s Day(Kodomo no Hi/子供の日) = Tango no Sekku(端午の節句)

 

Iris(Shobu) in Japan

Shobu = Iris

On 5th May, This day is called “Children’s Day”. Children’s Day is for respecting children’s personalities, celebrating their happiness and also being thankful to the mother. This is the present children’s day in Japan but they still have the traditional parts of this day.

Kusudama

Kusudama as the modular Origami

This day is also called “Tango no Sekku(端午の節句)”. This is a traditional way to say. Tango no Sekku is to get rid of evil spirits and this custom came from China. When in the Heian period(794–1185), Japanese learned this custom and made the own event “Tango no Sechie(端午の節会せちえ)”. They used Iris flowers to wipe the roof, put it on their body, or put it on their gates of their house. They also used Iris flowers and mugworts(蓬/Yomogi) to make a Kusudama(薬玉)with the five colors of threads and decorated it or gave to the other noble people.

Except for this custom, in Japan, originally, they have their own event which is called “Satsuki-imi(五月忌み)”. May in Japan is the time for rice‐planting and it used to be said that to transplant rice seedlings is a job for young and pure women. Those girls were called “Saotome(早乙女)”. The rice-planting used to be a sacred event so before the rice-planting, those girls who were called Saotome purified their bodies and dodged an uncleanliness.

After a while, this event and Tango no Sekku were combined together and Saotome girls started to stay at the house which was cleaned with Irish flowers and mugworts before the day of the rice-planting. In the house, they purified their bodies with an Iris Sake(Shobuzake/菖蒲酒) to get rid of an uncleanliness. In other words, this was the festival for girls.

Speaking of Tango no Sekku, “Tan” from Tango no Sekku can be expressed as “端” in Kanji. This Kanji has a couple of meanings but in this case, it means a start. “Go” is “午” in Japanese. In old traditional time month of “午” was May. Also, the pronunciation of “go” is five in Japanese too. That is how Tango no Sekku is 5th May.

By the way, Iris is called “Shobu(菖蒲)” in Japanese. Shobu blooms up around this season. Ancient Japanese people used to use this to get rid of evil spirits.

Shobu has different 2 definitions. 

  1. Fight and Battle(Shobu/勝負)
  2. The way of Samurai(Shobu/尚武), Martial Art

As you see those two, they have the same pronunciations of “Shobu” and the different meanings. This story will go to the next theme but let me show you how to use Shobu more first!

 

Various ways to use Shobu(Iris)

 

Many ways to use Shobu(Iris)

Shobu in the bath!

There are some other ways to enjoy Tango no Sekku with Shobu. Shobu is to remove evil spirits from us so it would be a great to use Shobu on this day. Let me show you some ways!

  • Take a bath with Shobu – You can enjoy the smell, improve blood circulation, and have a heat keeping effect
  • Put it around your head – It’s said that you can be smarter and healthy
  • Use it as a chopstick rest – You can make a good atmosphere for this day
  • Put it in Sake – It’s said that Shobu has a detoxification. It also improve blood circulation
  • Put it under a pillow or make a pillow out of Shobu – This way is to wish for being in good health
  • Whip it on the ground – Evil spirits don’t like this sound so it’s said that you can remove evil spirits
  • Swordplay with Shobu – This can mean to remove evil spirits
  • Use it as a decoration for dishes – It makes an atmosphere and it would stimulate your appetite

Those are some examples and there are more ways to use Shobu. If you want to have Tango no Sekku in the traditional way, you should try it! At least, you can expect to have a fun! ヽ(`∀´)ノ

 

Why is this day called “Boys day”?

 

Kabuto(Japanese Helmet)

Traditional Japanese helmet

As you have understood the word of Shobu above, Shobu has the different meanings and they sound like for boys because of the battle or the way of Samurai. The reason is below.

Since Kamakura period(1185 – 1333), they decided “Tango no Sekku = Boys day”. They decorate with Japanese traditional helmet and Samurai doll on this day. The old Japan made much of the way of Samurai so this custom started for boys.

The reason why they display them has the meanings too.

  1. To remove evils spirits
  2. To wish that boys will grow strong, tough, and sturdy
  3. T0 wish to that boys will grow up like a Samurai and be successful in their life

All reasons still work for the present days and the feelings of the parents toward children are always the same things! They want our kids to be a good adult!

Anyway, this is how May, 5th is called boys day.

 

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Japanese boys doll(Satsuki Ningyo/五月人形)

 

Japanese put a traditional doll, helmet, or armor for this day. The meanings to display them are above. I think a traditional Japanese helmet is the most popular to display but there are some kinds so let me talk about them.

 

Traditional helmet and armor

 

Traditional Japanese armorHelmets or armors are to protect themselves from getting hurt. It’s said to protect children from various troubles.

 

Kintaro doll(金太郎)

 

Kintaro SumoThe name of Kintaro is the Kintoki Sakata’s childhood name. He had a powerful strength and was acknowledged by Yorimitsu Minamoto(源 頼光) who was a Samurai Shogun in the Heian period(794-1185). He became his retainer and Yorimitsu’s big four. He used to Sumo-wrestled a bear and sometimes, you can hear his story as an old tale.

 

Ushiwakamaru doll(牛若丸)

 

UshiwakamaruThe name of Ushiwakamaru is the Yoshitsune Minamoto’s childhood name. Yoshitsune Minamoto(源義経) was a Samurai Shogun in the Heian period(794-1185). He helped his step-elder brother named, Yoritomo Minamoto who established the Kamakura period(1185 – 1333).

 

Benkei(弁慶)

 

BenkeiBenkei was a monk who met with Ushiwakamaru at Gojouoohashi, Kyoto prefecture and he became a Ushiwakamaru’s retainer. He has been known as a wise and powerful guy.

 

Koinobori(鯉のぼり)

 

Koinobori(For children's day)

Koinobori

Japanese do another thing on this day for kids.

Time leaps to the Edo period(1603 – 1868). When this period, Tokugawa government who ruled this period set 5th May is the day to celebrate Shogun(Shogun is ahead of Japan back then) at Edo castle. Edo was the capital of Japan which is Tokyo now.

To celebrate Shogun, they used to put up the banner at the castle. When the Shogun had a baby boy, they used to do the same way. This way spread to Samurai family’s and when they had a baby boy, they started to put up the banner too and the common people too.

But the common people did a different way. They made a picture of carp going up a waterfall. This means that parents wish their children to grow up to be successful.

 

What to eat for boys day

 

There are two things to eat. Let’s see what they eat on this day!

 

Kashiwa-mochi(柏餅)

 

Kashiwamochi(Japanese sweets)On this day, Japanese eat Kashiwa-mochi. This custom started from the Edo period(1603-1868). Kashiwa-mochi is a rice cake wrapped in a Japanese Emperor Oak. The meaning of eating this is to the prosperity of descendants. It is said that Japanese Emperor Oak’s leaf won’t fall until new bud comes out. That is why they use this leaf to wrap Mochi to wish for a prosperity of descendants.

 

Chimaki(粽)

 

Chimaki and Kashiwa Mochi

Chimaki and Kashiwa Mochi

Chimaki came from China. A long time ago, the guy named, Qu Yuan who was loved by the people but one day, he was lost his status by a conspiracy and committed suicide by throwing himself into the river. That day was May, 5th. The people who used love him held a memorial service for him as they threw their offerings into the river but a bad dragon stole them. But this dragon doesn’t like a leaf of Chinaberry so they wrapped glutinous rice with it and tied it with the five colors threads(Red, blue, yellow, white, and black). This custom came to japan and they took it in.

 

Other special days in May

 

Constitution Memorial Day

On May 3rd, this day is called Constitution Memorial Day. It is as the name states for this day. This day is for celebrating the enforcement of Japanese law.

 

Greenery Day

On May 4th, this day is called Greenery Day. The purpose of this day is to be thankful for nature and enrich yourself. Greenery Day is made by Emperor Showa who was also a biologist. Greenery Day used to be on 29th April which was his birthday but since 2007, 29th April has been named The day of Showa and Greenery Day has been replaced by 4th May.

 

Golden Week

“Golden Week” is a vacation time and some holidays sit in a low. It depends on the companies but usually, Japanese workers can almost get a week off in a low. It starts from the end of the April to early May. While Golden Week, there are 4 national holidays.

Those are

  • Showa day(April, 29th)
  • Constitution Memorial Day(May, 3rd)
  • Greenery Day(May, 4th)
  • Children’s Day(May, 5th)

During Golden Week, everywhere you go, it would be busy and heavy traffic. Some people go back to their hometown, some go abroad, some spend time at home, and so on. It would be a great chance to spend the time with the family!

 

Summary

 

How was May in japan? It was so interesting to read the stories, right? Children’s day is known as the boys day in Japan but of course, girls can enjoy too. This is children’s day so kids need to enjoy their day! Play hard and sleep hard! That’s what kids need to do! Oh, don’t forget about a study too! ━━ΣΣ(゚Д゚;)━━

Anyway, let’s call it a day today! I hope you enjoy reading this post!

See you~! (o尸’▽’)o

 

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