Children’s Day and Golden Week in Japan
Japan has a quite few national holidays in May and one of them is Children’s Day (KODOMONO HI ), celebrated on 5th of May every year. It started as a celebration for boys, to wish them a healthy and happy life. It has now developed into a celebration for not only boys but for all children. In addition, these days it is an opportunity for kids to show their appreciation of their parents for their effort and dedication in raising them.
When spring arrives Japan, flowers are blooming, and the weather is pleasantly warm. A lot of people think April is the best time to visit Japan, which is true if you want to see cherry blossoms. However, weather-wise, May would be a better month. Whilst the weather is already started to warm in April, there still are a few chilly periods whereas May is consistently warm and sunny. Hence if weather is your main concern, then May would be the best season to visit Japan.
If you are planning to visit Japan during the spring season, be mindful that Japan has a week with a series of public holidays starting from the end of April through to the first week of May, which is known as Golden Week. The Golden Week is a combination of a few national holidays including the Children’s Day and a weekend, so can extend as long as 10 days. It is one of the busiest times for any of the popular tourist destinations throughout Japan. Pre Covid-19, you could expect large crowds everywhere you visit at this time and rather long queues to get into any popular sightseeing places. With the current situation and the world aiming to get back to normality, you would not expect a large crowd this year.
How is the Children’s Day celebrated in Japan?
KOINOBORI (carp streamers)
When the children’s day is getting closer, some houses hang up the carp streamers (called KOI NOBORI in Japanese) on their balconies or in their backyard. Carp is a symbol of strength, courage, and success. So, the families hang out the carp streamers in the hope that their children will grow up well. When the wind blows, it looks as if the carps are swimming in the sky. As you can see in the picture, there are usually a few carp in one set. The black carp, the largest one, represents the father and the red carp represents the mother, the blue carp represents a child (traditionally, the son) and if you have more kids in the family, usually more carp streamers such as pink, green and orange ones can be added representing other siblings.
GOGATSU NINGYO (May dolls) & KABUTO (warrior helmet)
Besides the carp streamers, another typical item that is part of celebrating Children’s Day is GOGATSU NINGYO (May dolls) which contain samurai armor, sword and KABUTO (a warrior helmet as pictured here). They are usually displayed in a prominent place in the house to represent the parent’s wishes to raise strong and powerful boys.
What food is eaten to celebrate Children’s Day in Japan?
You will find special Japanese sweets sold at confectionary shops and supermarkets throughout Japan around the time of children’s day. They are very traditional Japanese sweets and have been eaten by Japanese people for centuries.
Chimaki is a steamed glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in a bamboo leaf.
2. KASHIWA MOCHI
Kashiwa mochi is a rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves (Kashiwa) which symbolise good fortune and prosperity. This is because the oak tree does not shed its old leaves until new ones have grown.
Journey to the East offers tours with May departures. One of our most popular group tours at this time is the “Garden and Art Tour of Japan “. For more information, please visit,
If you prefer to travel with your own private group, then Journey to the East can help you with a tailor-made tour. Please check out our Private Tours page. We have a range of model itineraries for private tours to start planning your next holiday to Japan. Let us assist you with creating the trip of a lifetime! Why not chat with one of our professional travel consultants through our Contact Us page.
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