Blackcabbit's World

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.

Baby Celebrations – the Japanese Way 3 (First Festival)

Baby’s First Festival

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.

  • January 7: Nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句 / Festival of the Seven Herb), also known as the Jin jitsu (人日 / Human Day)
  • March 3: Momo no sekku (桃の節句 / Peach Festival), or more commonly known as the Hinamatsuri (ひな祭り / Doll’s Festival)
  • May 5: Tango no sekku (端午の節句 / Boy’s Day Celebration), or Kodomo no hi (こどものひ / Children’s Day), or Shobu no sekku (菖蒲の節句 / Iris Festival)
  • July 7: Tanabata (七夕 / the Star Festival)
  • September 9: Kiku no sekku (菊の節句 / Chrysanthemum Day)

Boy’s Day / Children’s Day

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.


Baby Celebrations – the Japanese Way (Main Page)
Japanese Annual Events (Main Page)


2 comments on “Baby Celebrations – the Japanese Way 3 (First Festival)

  1. cathy
    December 24, 2010

    thank you for the great information! my husbasnd is japanese however his father is no longer with us and your site will definately help us make our son’s first boys day special :)
    thank you!

    • blackcabbit
      December 24, 2010

      Dearest Cathy, U are a wonderful mum and I’m sure you will continue to make every day a special day for your son. May you, your little boy and family be blessed with love, joy and warmth. Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! ^_^

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on May 14, 2010 by in Baby Log, Festivals / Holidays, Life in Japan and tagged , .
%d bloggers like this: