Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten



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Such a refreshing season, isn't it? Flying Koinobori (carp streamers) brings me a very refresh feeling.
Today I would like to introduce what I've learned about "Tango no Sekku"(Boy's Festival).

Warrior's helmet

Meaning of "tan" from the word of "tango" is things in the end, in other words, to start things. Originally the word of "Tango" implies the date of the begging of month, called "the hour of the "Uma" =Horse/ at noon) and lately decided to change into the May 5th is the Tango by lunar calendar. There are many reasons why it is celebrated on the 5th after the custom was originally came from China. After that, Chinese festivals had spread out in Japan, being taken places as imperial events called Sechie (occasion meeting) in Heian period. People thatched Shobu (Japanese iris) on roof and tied around the body. And they also decorated Kusudama (ornamental perfumed ball) in a house. Kusudama was an essential objet that people believed it averts evil spirit and they wished for a boy's happiness on the festival day. Noble people knitted a ball with Shobu, Yomogi (mugwort) stem and leaves, then they filled with flowers and 5 strings of varying colors. And it became an important event to clean impurity of body in the time of new phase.

Tango no Sekku

Festival Saotome

Originally there was a traditional event called "Purifying victual of May" in the period of rice planting in Japan. People acknowledged the "rice planting" as a sacred event from ancient times, and the planting was taken cared by only "Saotome (young and pure ladies)". Therefore they were a certain period for ladies to purify their body and sprit before planting.

Lately this event was combined with "Tango no Sekku". Saotome stayed one night in a cottage covered with Syobu and Yomogi. It is said that ladies averted impurity by drinking Shobu liquor and started rice planting being as a holy presence.

This means it was a delightful event for women so that they could take a day off officially. The time changed from Kamakura to Edo period, the Samurai gained their power. The interpretation of Shobu became implied for "Shobu" to fight respect Samurai. And because its shape was alike a sward, the event had gradually shifted for boy's event such as people decorated Shobu in a warrior's helmet and played Yabusame (archery on horseback). And the event was constituted by Edo Bakufu as one of 5 seasonal annual event to wish for boy's healthy growth and success in life.

Tango no Sekku

Carp streamer and Warrior's helmet

It is said that the custom of decorating May dolls, Yoroi/Helmets on the day of Tango no Sekku (Chidren's day) states back to the Samurai period.
People in Kamakura to Muromachi period used to decorate Yoroi (Armor)Kabuto(Helmet) and Samurai weapons standing a banner and tubular streamer outside when rainy season soon to be come. Reason for the decoration is said that is because of maintaining those weapons, or avert from disaster wishing on the day of Tango no Sekku. Warrior's weapons such as Kakkou (Armor and helmet) was very important things to protect Samurai and especially for boys fighting in wars. Those background behind had been stated to the custom of decorating Helmets and Yoroi to wish for children's health and growth on the Tango no Sekku. Carp streamers are known for the icon to express of parent's wish for their children to live with their strength and health. It is said that people in the Edo period streamed carps a lot here and there. Do you know about "a carp swimming up the rapids" which is a historical event in China? This is about the story that only carps which could swim up to Dragon's gate on a yellow river can be passed away and reincarnate for a dragon. With this story people say it brought custom to stream a carp.

Carp streamer

Kashiwamochi and Chimaki

Chimaki is originated from China, and on the other hand Kashiwamochi is originated in Japan.
Kashiwa leaves to wrap mochi is known for a holy tree since ancient times and also Kashiwa leaf are so strong not to fell old leaves off easily waiting untill newly buds come out. It means to say that "parents do not die until children were given their birth." In other words, the statements was connected with the meaning of "To continue inheritors" "Descendant prosperity", and these Kashiwamochi and Chimaki became recognized as a fortune food to be eaten on the Tango no Sekku.

Kashiwamochi and Chimaki

I learn a lot about Tango no Sekku which was originated from Chinese custom and sent to Japan. And now people cerebrate the day after it was combined Japanese custom. I really wish you understand and appreciate the meaning of Tango no Sekku and cerebrate happily as well.

5th May,2015