If you have ever been to Japan or simply are familiar with Japanese culture, you will know that the koi
are special animals to the Japanese people. These ornamental and
domesticated carp are colorful and so are usually kept in fishponds both
indoors and outdoors. The koi is also used to symbolize strength,
energy, and power. So much is the influence of the koi that they are
used to embody one of the biggest festivals in Japan, Children’s Day.
Paper, cloth or any fabric for that matter is used in making a koinobori
— a streamer or windsock shaped like a koi. There are normally at least
3 koinobori in a pole that line the streets of Japan during Children’s
Day. Colors of the koinobori are also symbolic. Black koinobori
represent the father. Red koinobori is representative of the mother
while smaller blue, yellow, purple, orange, and other colors are for the
Children’s Day: A history of the koinobori
Children’s day marks the end of the Golden Week in Japan, usually on the 5th
of May. The Golden week is one of the longest breaks for the working
class people in Japan where most, if not all, businesses stay closed for
9- 10 days.
There are a lot of
stories pertaining to the origin of the koinobori. Almost all though,
would say that it has to do with asking for the blessing of the gods for
strength and power. Though there may be several origin stories, there
is no definite year as to when this tradition started.
In one story, it has
been said that samurai warriors wore full armor with the koinobori
streaming on poles during a battle. It is also believed that this
practice, in the year 1282, was also done to celebrate victories after a
More sources, however,
believe that the koinobori is used to celebrate children, specifically
boys up until the year 1948. This celebration was known as the Tango No
Sekku. Girls had a separate celebration known as Hinamatsuri or Doll’s
Day. Eventually, however, the two events were combined and are now being
celebrated and known as Children’s Day.
During the ancient
times, the koinobori was placed in front of the family home to celebrate
the birth of a newborn baby. It was believed that the gods came along
and pole from the heavens to bless and protect the child. To make the
poles and homes stand out, the koinobori was made to be as colorful as
much as possible.
koinobori has 5 streamers. On top of the poles are circular spinning
wheels, much like wind vanes. Next are the fukinagashi, a wind sock with
bright and colorful streamers. This is then followed by the koinobori
itself—black, red and various other colored windsocks. This custom is
believed to bring growth and success to the newborn baby.
The koi is a
celebrated animal because of its supposed courage and strength. In
Chinese legends, it is believed that the koi swam upstream of the Yellow
River, eventually becoming dragons. Because of this fruitful endeavor,
koi are also known to bring success and good luck in any career.
There are many
symbolisms related to the koi. But in koinobori, it is always associated
with strength and courage—traits that are very much desirable for
are still used in the traditional manner. However, they are also used as
garden ornaments. They can also be used as decorations for children’s
rooms. For foreigners, koinobori are also purchased primarily as
souvenirs. Either way, koinobori are exceptional in both aesthetics and
Use these koinobori indoors or outdoors as ornaments or otherwise. Here at Japanese Style, you’ll surely find a koinobori that will surely tickle your fancy.