Children's Day in Japan: Kodomo no hi

Children's Day in Japan: Kodomo no hi

Koinobori Song

Yane yori takai koinobori
Ookii magoi wa otousan
Chiisai higoi wa kodomotachi
Omoshirosouni oyoideru

The koinobori are higher than the rooftops
The big black carp is the father
The small golden-red carp is the child
How pleasing it is to swim!

Children are stars. Fish fly. Schools have the day off.

Every May 5, it is Kodomo no Hi or "Children’s Day" in Japan. Families fly koinobori banners in the shape of a carp (a type of fish) for each child in their house. In Japanese folklore, the carp is a symbol of determination and vigor, overcoming all obstacles to swim upstream. Samurai warrior figurines and samurai kabuto helmets are also displayed in homes to inspire strength and bravery.

Children indulge in kashiwa-mochi, sticky rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves, and other sweets. Around the country there are many events for children and families. Children take center stage in traditional Japanese plays. Thousands of children compete in the "Kids' Olympics" held at the National Kasumigaoka Stadium in Tokyo. Children also use the day to thank and show respect for the teachers, parents, and relatives who care for them.

Until 1948, May 5 was called Tango no sekku and only honored boys. A separate holiday called Hinamatsuri or "Dolls' Day" celebrated girls on March 3. Even now, on this day girls still receive dolls that had been passed down to their grandmothers and mothers. For many families, May 5 still centers on boys. Some people say that Hinamatsuri for girls should become an equal holiday instead of combining them into one. How about you? Would you want a holiday for all kids, or one for boys and another for girls?

Create Your Own Koinobori


  • 24" x 18" piece of fabric or heavy paper.
  • fabric paint, paintbrush, markers, and colored tissue paper
  • glue
  • ribbon
  • stapler
  • strip of thin cardboard (about 17 inches in length and between ½-1" wide)
  • hole puncher
  • string (about 16 inches in length)


  1. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise (so it is 24" x 9").
  2. Draw a fish with an opening for the mouth and tail (at least 6 inches wide at each end). The body should be about 12 inches at the widest.
  3. Cut along your lines so you have two identical fish shapes.
  4. Using paint, markers, glue and tissue paper, decorate both fish.
  5. Wait until dry. If using fabric, lay one decorated fish face-up on a table. Lay the other piece decoration-down on top of it. (The two decorated sides will be touching each other.) Smear glue along the sides of the fish, creating a ½ seam. (Leave the mouth and tail with no glue so the wind can blow through.) When glue is dry, turn your koinobori right side out.
  6. If using paper: lay first fish face-down on table and smear glue along edges, leaving mouth and tail with no glue so wind can blow through. Place other fish on top of first, face-up and press down along seams.
  7. Glue pieces of ribbon to the end of the tail.
  8. Fit the piece of cardboard around the inside rim of the koinobori mouth. Staple the ends together so it forms a circle.
  9. Push the cardboard circle about an inch inside the mouth and secure with glue. Fold the inch or so of excess fabric or paper over and glue to the inside rim.
  10. Using the holepunch, make a hole on either side of the fish mouth. Cut a piece of string or ribbon about 16 inches long. Tie each end of the string to the holes.
  11. Hang your koinobori outside and watch it swim in the breeze!


Author: Heather Clydesdale