Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Tango no Sekku (Children's Day) - Japanese Encyclopedia
Tango no sekku is a traditional celebration also known as "Children's Day". Let us guide you through the features of this this special day and the seasonal specialties that can be enjoyed during this time.
Written by ニコ
What Is Tango No Sekku?
Tango no sekku is commonly referred to as "children's day" in the modern times. It is a traditional ceremony that has been celebrated since the times when the capital city was Nara, back in the eighth century.
Tango no sekku is written 端午の節句 in Japanese. The tango (端午) is broken down to tan (端), which means "the beginning" and go (午), which means "horse". Literally, it means the "first horse of May". Long ago, Japan formally used names of animals for the days of the week.
The Chinese character for "horse" (午) is read as "go", which sounds like the number five, "go" (五) in Japanese. Therefore, this celebration is frequently held on May 5th in nowadays.
On March 3rd, the Japanese have a celebration dedicated to girls. That is why May 5th, the Tango no sekku, began to be a celebration dedicated to the boys. During the seventeenth century, many people began to celebrate the Tango no Sekku because the death rate of children was very high. It was rather rare in those times that children grew into healthy adults.
How To Celebrate Tango No Sekku
Tango no sekku is commonly celebrated on May 5th. The custom varies in each household, but in some cases children receive gifts from other family members or even invite their close friends and celebrate with a party.
The party meal contains foods such as kashiwa mochi, soft rice cakes with anko red bean filling wrapped in an oak leaf, or chimaki, an item of Japanese confectionery wrapped in bamboo leaf along with red snapper and chestnut. Kashiwa mochi and chimaki can be purchased at Japanese confectionery shops such as Ikkoan in Koishikawa, Tokyo, which opened in 1977, or the Murasaki no Wakuden Chaka in Marunouchi, Tokyo. Around May 5th, you can also find them at local supermarkets too.
In addition, the iris has a special meaning during the celebration of the Tango no Sekku. Some houses prepare an iris bath called shobu-yu or place the iris by their house entrance or on the roof.
The iris is said to ward away evil. The koinobori (carp streamers) and the kabuto (samurai helmets) are important items that are also displayed to protect and wish for the good health of the children.
Hatsu Sekku, The First Child's Day
Hatsu sekku is the first celebration for the child after their birth. For girls, it is celebrated on March 3rd, while for boys it is on the first May 5th of their life.
It is a celebration that has been continuing since the seventeenth century to wish for the good health and longevity of the children. The gifts for children include dolls of childhood heroes such as Kintaro and Momotaro, koinobori carp streamers, kabuto samurai helmets or dolls for girls' festivals.
These items for the Tango no Sekku can be found easily at toy shops such as Toys R'Us during March and April.
Lately, there have been events with many koinobori carp streamers put on display. In Tokyo, you will be able to see 333 koinobori carp streamers to match the height of Tokyo Tower at 333 meters. If you come in Tokyo during mid-April and May, do stop by to take a look.
Tango no Sekku is a traditional celebration to wish for the good health and growth of boys and children in general. It would be a great experience to taste some kashiwa mochi and chimaki while watching koinobori carp streamers on the day of Tango no sekku!