Tango no Sekku
May 5 is a day for boys. Long the Tango no Sekku, it has been officially renamed Children’s Day and made a national holiday. Families with sons buy armored samurai dolls and miniature helmets, hang out koi-nobori, buy irises and kashiwa-mochi, and pray for their sons’ success in life.
Tango no Sekku used to be a day for hunting game and gathering medicinal herbs, such as iris leaves. Shobu in Japanese, the iris has a homonym meaning “military spirit”, from whence came the Muromachi custom of decorating paper helmets with iris leaves.
Samurai dolls and koi-nobori first appeared in the Edo period, but it was not until the Meiji period that these customs became popular nationwide.