While people in Japan put up decorations to celebrate different holidays, most of them are placed inside the home, such as the dolls for Girls’ Day/Hina Matsuri in March or the vegetables displayed during Obon in the summer. Out in public, though, though, you’d be hard-pressed to tell one Japanese holiday from another, with the exception of Children’s Day/Kodomo no Hi on May 5.
That’s because when Children’s Day rolls around, all you have to do is look up at all of the beautifully awesome carp streamers flying overhead,
Children’s Day used to be known as Boys’ Day, and families with sons would fly a carp streamer (koinobori in Japanese) for each of their male children above their home. As the cloth caught the breeze, it would writhe back and forth, looking like it was valiantly swimming upstream, which was taken as a symbol showing that the family’s young men would grow up to be similarly strong and brave.
Since May 5 became officially renamed Children’s Day, some families have begun flying carp streamers for their daughters as well, although the practice is still much more widespread in families with boys. What hasn’t changed, though, is how cool they look.
「南港の鯉のぼり」 大阪南港のマンションは鯉のぼり禁止だそうです。そんな場所でも子供達の為にと建設会社さんがクレーンを使い毎年鯉のぼりを上げています^ ^ 良き一日をお過ごしください( ´ ▽ ` ) #写真好きな人と繋がりたい http://t.co/bT0oJlyA3x—
wasabi (@wasabitool) May 03, 2015
While many families still fly their koinobori individually from the roofs or balconies of their own homes, in some communities they’re displayed en masse, often strung over a river.
吹く風爽やか 材木岩（宮城県白石市）の鯉のぼり http://t.co/eDOQfzLNbV—
時計草 (@tokeisou88) April 30, 2015
皆さん、お早うございますヽ(´∀`｡)ﾉ 早いもので風薫る５月に成りました。 今月も楽しいお付き合いを宜しくお願いします☆ では、楽しいゴールデンウイークを٩(๑′∀ ‵๑)۶•*¨*•.¸¸♪❤ 行って来まーす♪ ＃鯉のぼり http://t.co/qSiT5ftKhW—
よっちゃん (@utamarukousa) April 30, 2015
While this practice is most common in rural areas, you can sometimes spot it in more developed areas as well.
【恋のぼり】 五月晴れの気持ちいい午後 川を泳ぐ鯉のぼり 私の気持ちもあなたの心に たどりつけますように… 大人の日もあったらいいのにね… 素敵な休日をお過ごしください *⑅ ⋆♡*⑅ ⋆♡*⑅ ⋆♡*⑅ ⋆♡*⑅ ⋆ http://t.co/c1gRLgM350—
ひろこ ･ﾟ:*❃❤ (@loveme0206) May 02, 2015
「鯉のぼりすぎ」 ☆大阪府高槻市/芥川桜堤公園 #写真好きな人と繋がりたい http://t.co/sTcbdK6LsA—
きょうすけ@写真 (@kyousukeimg) May 02, 2015
Of course, if you’re living in the concrete jungle of urban Japan, you might not have a river nearby. That’s not an insurmountable problem, though, as shown in this video by expat and YouTube user BusanKevin who lives in an apartment complex that hangs its koinobori between the high-rises.
Sometimes, the koinobori are amassed in such a large school of fabric fish that they almost block out the sky.
【熊本県】杖立温泉 鯉のぼり祭り。 http://t.co/iWOk7EiDaN—
一度は行きたい！ 世界の絶景❤️ (@TheZekkei) April 29, 2015
おはようございます。 今日も「感謝」の気持ちと「ありがとう」が素直に言える一日。 そして、笑顔で過ごしましょう。 写真は、【鯉のぼり】→ http://t.co/Ot32F416vW—
イルカ (@shonan_iruka) May 02, 2015
▼ Even this dog got in on the carp streamer fun.
白ポメラニアン コロンちゃん (@5577coron) May 02, 2015
▼ A rare case of color-coordinated koinobori
T. Suzuki (@jpnsuzuki) April 29, 2015
As a matter of fact, koinobori have such an established cultural legacy that they were even included in Disney’s Big Hero 6, albeit in mechanized form.
And of course, like any iconic image of Japan, they look especially cool with Mt. Fuji in the background.
【子供の日】 おはようございます。 今日も「感謝」の気持ちと「ありがとう」が素直に言える一日。 そして、笑顔で過ごしましょう。 写真は、【富士山・鯉のぼり】→ http://t.co/XjdW8MJxPr—
イルカ (@shonan_iruka) May 04, 2015
See you again next year, koinobori!