Today was the day I was going to hang up our Koi no bori. But it’s raining, so I think I’ll wait until tomorrow.
Koi no bori are the colorful windsocks that fly outside Japanese homes from April until early May. Shaped like fish, their name means “carp streamers.” They are associated with May 5, a national Japanese holiday known as Children’s Day. Prior to 1948 this holiday was known as Boys’ Day, and it was the custom to hang one koi no bori steamer for each male child in the family outside the house.
Carp are considered to be an auspicious fish in Japanese culture because they are strong enough to swim upstream. This is supposed to characterize or perhaps inspire a young man’s quest to obtain fame and fortune in life against daunting odds.The folk hero Kintarō is also associated with the May 5 holiday, and he is often depicted riding on a carp (please see my March 2016 post “Kintarō”.)
I don’t know if Japanese families today fly koi no bori for both their male and female children, although I have read that large koi windsocks sometimes represent both parents. Because Children’s Day occurs during Golden Week, a holiday period when many Japanese families go on vacation, it’s common to see long strings of these bright windsocks decorating parks and other public places during the first week of May. Once made of paper of silk, koi no bori today are screen printed on nylon, and are almost as weather resistant as the fish that inspired them.
Our koi no bori are nylon, and we have three of them: one for my husband, one for my adult son, and one for our grandson.