Our little family is LOVING Okinawa, Japan. We love living the island lifestyle, and we also really love how kid-friendly and kid-focused the Japanese are. There are nursing rooms everywhere, kids are welcomed at almost all restaurants, and if they aren’t, there is a nice sign stating the “adult only” hours. Families mainly live multi-generational, and it is common to see grandparents with little kids throughout the day.
Families are celebrated here!
One of Japan’s largest holidays is called Children’s Day. It has become such a special day to us while we’ve been stationed in Okinawa that I wanted to share with you what it means!
What is Children’s Day?
On this day and leading up to the holiday, families fly carp shaped Koinobori, 鯉のぼりmeaning windsocks in Japanese. The meaning of the Koinobori comes from an old Chinese legend about a carp who swims upstream against a strong current and eventually overcomes that current to become a dragon.
The Japanese people consider the carp the most spirited fish, being full of energy and strength. Typically a koinobori set will include an arrow-spiked wheel with a ball shaped spinning wind dial. Next is a multi-colored windsock, representing the dragon (飛龍吹流し hiryū fukinagashi) followed by a large carp for the father, smaller red or pink windsock for the mother and finally one for each child in the family. Mochi cakes wrapped in oak leaves are often eaten on the holiday.
Children’s Day is celebrated differently all over Japan, but in Okinawa on May 5th there are many festivals, including large dragon boat races that are always a fun sight to see. It is also common for local school kids to make their own version of the koinobori and last year we found a local park with hundreds on display.