Carp culture in Japanese festivals

Once a year in late April and early May, images of colorful carp flags flying Catching the wind has become a common sight throughout Japan. Carp flags (Koinobori) are a symbol of health and are considered a good omen for children.

In Japanese, Koi means carp, Nobori means is a flag and banner. Hanging carp flags is a long-standing Japanese tradition to celebrate Children’s Day on May 5 (Kodomo no Hi), formerly known as Tango-no-sekku.

Kinobori culture and Children’s Day

In Japanese culture, carp symbolizes courage and strength due to the ability to swim upstream (“carp crosses the Vu Mon”). Because courage and strength are qualities that parents want in their sons, Japanese families hang koinobori at home in the hope that their sons will grow up as healthy and strong as a carp.</ p>

Edokoinobori period was black like the color of wild carp. This can be seen in Utagawa Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e paintings. During the Meiji period, with the penetration of Western culture, red koinobori and other colors appeared. Although it was a change that took place over many years during the MeijiTaisho and Showa periods, the colorful and patterned koinobori culture gradually took shape throughout Japan.

Colorful Koinobori carp flags.

The small version of the Koinobori crossed fish flag is commonly used in urban areas.

Second is the change in the way koinobori is hung. Traditionally koinobori are hung vertically from a tall pole. However, horizontal koinobori hanging is becoming more and more popular, especially during large events such as festivals.