Today in Hawaii we celebrate tango-no-sekku, more commonly known as Boys’ Day.
In Japan, where Boys’ Day originated, the holiday was joined with Girls’ Day to form Children’s Day. However, we in the Islands are fond of setting aside separate days for both sexes. Hence, Girls’ Day is observed on March 3, while Boys’ Day falls on May 5.
A common sight in Hawaii’s neighborhoods during Boys’ Day is koinobori, large carp streamers or windsocks that “swim” in the tradewinds on bamboo poles in front of homes. Following tradition, each streamer represents a male in the household. The carp nearest the top of the pole usually symbolizes the father, and is the largest. Additional carp represent sons ordered by age, working downward from oldest to youngest.
Carp are classic symbols of masculinity in Japanese culture, associated with strength, perseverance and longevity. In the wild, the fish swim against the currents, scale waterfalls and live an exceptionally long life—qualities that are fitting traits for a young man.
Other Boys’ Day staples include musha-ningyo (samurai dolls clad in body armor and armed with weapons and helmets), kashiwa mochi (a bean-filled rice cake wrapped in an oak leaf) and chimaki mochi (a similar cake wrapped in bamboo leaves)—all of which are given to the men of the house.
As of 8 a.m. this morning (Hawaii time) the males on HAWAII Magazine’s staff had yet to receive a box of either mochi. We’d gladly settle for lunch from our female co-workers.