Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
A Japanese baby’s first festival celebration is known as Hatsu zekku (初節句). Only the initial event that falls under the five major festivals (Gosekku – 五節句) can be determined as a Hatsu zekku. These Gosekku festivals are events celebrating the change in seasons.
On May 5th, two months after his birthday, Baby had his Hatsu zekku (初節句 / First Festival). It was Children’s Day in Japan. Until recently, the national holiday was known as Tango no sekku (端午の節句 / Boy’s Day). Despite the name changed, it remains a boy-centered festival.
Like any Japanese household with sons, we displayed the Musha Ningyo (Warrior Dolls), or commonly known as Gogatsu Ningyo (五月人形 / May Dolls). A traditional set can be ridiculously expensive as it includes a splendid samurai armor suit and other exquisite warlike ornaments (i.e. sword, spears, bow, arrows, banners etc.) Hence nowadays, most families just use simple and contemporary Musha Ningyo to express the hope that their sons will acquire health, happiness, as well as samurai virtues such as courage and strength.
This one featuring Momo-Taro (Peach Boy)
– Little boys’ well-loved fictional hero.
Fortunately for us, we had a set handed down from one generation. My husband’s grandparents bought a set for him when he was only a few months old. It was displayed once and then was kept in storage for more than 30 years. This festival, the set was once again a stunning exhibit in the tatami room.
Oops, I just realized from the photo that the set was incomplete.
The bow/arrow and a pair of Japanese iris ornaments were left out.
Another prominent symbol of Tango no sekku is the Koinobori (鯉のぼり/ Carp-shaped Streamers), which is usually placed at the most windy exterior of the house. The Koinobori, is a depiction of carps swimming upstream against strong currents. By hoisting the streamers, parents hope for stamina, strength, determination and life advancement for their sons.
The Large (black) carp for the daddy, medium (red) carp for mummy,
and small (blue) carp for Baby.
Baby’s Koinobori toy.
Usually, Baby had his bath in the baby tub. However on Boy’s Day, he had the traditional Shobu yu (菖蒲湯 / Japanese Iris Bath) in the regular bathtub with his daddy. The Shobu (菖蒲 / Japanese Iris) is the symbolic plant of Tango no sekku, which is why the festival is also known as Shobu no sekku (菖蒲の節句 / Iris Festival). It has strong association with Boy’s Day because of its long narrow sword-like leaf and the same sound as 勝負 (Shobu / Fight). Parents hope that their sons will have victory in any match or competition, or otherwise to put up a good fight even in defeat.