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Celebrating Children's Day with Origami Kimonos

May 2, 2014

Yuto, the youngest boy in the Yamagata family, got up earlier than usual. His elder sister, Aiko, was still sleeping. It was May 5, Kodomo no Hi (子供の日): Children’s Day in Japan. The festival was called Tango no Sekku (Boys’ Day) until several decades ago, when it was renamed Kodomo no Hi to celebrate the happiness and health of all children in Japan.

The koinobori, "carp streamer,” that you would see everywhere on Kodomo no Hi, the Children's Day in Japan. (image source:

Yuto could not wait. He rolled out of bed and rushed to the yard to see the koinobori (鯉のぼり) that he and his sister hung the night before. Koinobori means “carp streamer” in Japanese, and are festive decorations shaped like fish. It was a clear day and the wind was full of the fragrance of the wisteria that had just blossomed in the yard. The koinobori were floating against the blue sky in the air. In ancient Japan, they were hand-made paper or fabric, but nowadays most people buy them from markets and hang them out before Kodomo no Hi. The pole with the koinobori that Yuto and Aiko put up last night had three carps on it. Traditionally the biggest black one on the top represents the father of the family; the next red one is for the mother, and the following ones represent sons in the family. Yuto stared at the carps swimming in the breeze until he heard his mom calling his name.

Yuto went back inside the house, where Aiko was already awake and helping their mom set up the breakfast table, on which Yuto spotted his favorite snack: kashiwa mochi, a sticky and sweet treat most commonly eaten during the Kodomo no Hi festival. “Paku paku! Kodomo no hi o dai suki desu.” Yuto said as he stuffed the mochi into his mouth.

Kashiwa mochi, 柏餅 (かしわもち), a traditional snack for children on Kodomo no Hi.

This all happened on Children’s Day last year. Yuto is now excitedly waiting for this coming Kodomo no Hi, celebrated this Monday. What are your plans for this year’s Kodomo no Hi? Have you made or bought a koinobori for your family? Are you going to try to make some delicious kashiwa mochi? Share your story with us in the comments.

Teaching Tips and Activities: Kimono Boy and Girl Bookmarks

As Children’s Day is just around the corner, now is a good time to make some  kimono boy and girl bookmarks with your students. These bookmarks can be a fun holiday-themed classroom project. They are practical gifts for friends and family, too. Follow the directions below.

Step 1: Prepare papers of different colors. One will be the “kimono” and others will be used to decorate the bookmark.


 Step 2: Cut the "kimono" paper into a square.









Step 3: Fold the paper into thirds and fold the corners of the left and right sides over the center. Take a white piece of paper and cut it into a small circle. Insert it into the top of the folds. This will be the “face.”









Step 4: Cut out a “hair” shape and add it to the doll.


Step 5: Use your imagination to decorate the bookmark.