Saturday, May 3, 2014

Japan's Golden Week Concludes with Children's Day

Japan’s exciting back-to-back national holiday celebrations, collectively known as Golden Week, comes to an end with Children’s Day on May 5th. Although it has only been designated a national public holiday since 1948, the holiday has been a huge part of Japanese culture and widely celebrated since ancient times, perhaps even all the way back to the reign of Empress Suiko in 593 A.D.! 

Traditionally, May 5th was known as Tango no Sekku and was dedicated to celebrating boys, while March 3rd was a festival for girls. It has since been changed so May 5th celebrates all children, both boys and girls.

Children’s Day is the perfect way to end Golden Week because of all the fun traditions and celebrations associated with the holiday. Carp-shaped streamers fly outside of countless houses of families with children and inside dolls of famous warriors are displayed
throughout the home. It is traditional for children to take baths sprinkled with iris and roots, since it’s believed that iris promotes good health and roots ward off evil spirits. And of course no Chinese holiday is complete without a traditional food! On May 5th families prepare and eat kashiwamochi, or rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves and filled with sweet bean-paste.

In addition to the traditional decorations and foods, this holiday also brings many exciting events. Each event is purposed to honor children as well as highlight their talents, promote their health, and to have some fun! Kyogen, a type of comic theater, has been around for 600 years and remains an important aspect of Children’s Day. It is performed wearing traditional costumes with very distinct styles of acting. One year, at the Yokohama Noh Theater, a kyogen recital was held featuring 18 actors between the ages of seven and thirteen. The kids had attended practices one or twice a week since the previous summer to learn the unique comic expressions, movements, and uses of the fan. The theater was packed with eager parents, teachers, friends, and family members to witness the showing of the impressive skills their children had practiced for almost a year. 

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