Have you heard of Japanese carp streamers? They are often displayed outside houses on Children’s Day, which is celebrated on May 5th. At 4T-AMKY, Teachers and Students write about Japanese culture, food, history, many spots to visit, and other stuff. Enjoy reading and knowing about deeper Japanese culture!
The History and Origin of Koinobori (Carp streamers).
What are carp streamers?
May 5th is Children’s Day. Families with boys hang up carp streamers to celebrate their children’s growth and wish for their children’s success in life. Carp streamers symbolize success in life.
An illustrated Postcard I received on May 5th.
I received an illustrated postcard from my Kampo (Japanese traditional) medicine teacher. The above illustration was drawn by him and the legend of “The origin of the carp streamers” was written by him.
The origin of carp streamers.
Carp streamers originated in the Edo period (1603-1868), when the shoguns celebrated the birth of a boy. A flagpole called hatasashimono was raised with their family crest on it which were worn by soldiers for identification during battles.
This became a popular tradition among samurai families. Eventually carp streamers were hung from a flagpole, replacing the family crests as time went on.
The origin of the carp streamers comes from the Chinese legend of “Toryumon.” According to this story, when a carp swims through the mighty rapids and the swift current of the upper Yellow River (Huang He), it can transform itself into a dragon. The Toryumon legend symbolizes that anybody who can persevere through great trials in life can accomplish their highest goals and succeed.
Carp streamers today
Even today in 2023 in Japan, on Children’s Day, you can still see carp streamers displayed in front of houses, although fewer than in days past.