Japanese tradition honors the child

HANAPEPE — Saturday was a day for the children.

Members of the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji, Hanapepe Temple, under the direction of Takeshi Fujita and Alton Miyamoto, scurried about the many different stations set up for the annual Children’s Day Festival.

Though May 5 is designated as Children’s Day in Japan, here on Kaua‘i scheduling conflicts pushed the event to last Saturday.

The celebration of Children’s Day arrived with the Japanese migrant workers, and today, has become a part of the Hawai‘i lifestyle where colorful carp streamers sail above rooftops in communities around the island.

Children’s Day became a national holiday in 1948, but the day of celebration dates back to ancient times in Japan.

Traditionally, the fifth day of the fifth month was Tango no Sekku and was a festival primarily for boys. Girls celebrate Hina Matsuri, or Doll Festival on the third day of the third month.

The festivities were held in the social hall of the WKH Hanapepe Temple, and upon entering, displays of both girls’ and boys’ days were set up with explanations for each respective display.

On Children’s Day, families with boys fly huge carp streamers called “koinobori” outside the house. Inside, displays of famous warrior dolls and other heroes welcome guests.

Volunteers welcomed the children to participate in a wide variety of Japanese-themed activities that ranged from origami to creating their own bonsai.

Additionally, to celebrate the carp that is a symbol of Children’s Day, Taiko Kaua‘i members manned a “gyotaku,” or fish-print station where young children and their parents could leave with a print of a type of fish called menpachi.

The carp was selected because it symbolizes strength and success, and according to a Chinese legend, a carp swam upstream to become a dragon.

Families take baths sprinkled with iris leaves and roots because the iris is thought to promote good health and ward off evil, according to a Japanese calendar Web site discussing contemporary Children’s Day practices.

Additionally, rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves and filled with sweet bean paste are eaten. The kashiwamochi, as the cakes are called, were not available at the food booth dispensing a variety of local delicacies, but in children’s sizes with prices reflecting children’s allowances.

“We have a lot more children this year. This is good,” Fujita said as he prepared the area where Taiko Kaua‘i would perform, and following their brief performance, invite youngsters to learn the basics of taiko.

Laulau, lomi salmon, fish head, and poi are familiar terms to youngsters born in Hawai‘i, and Patricia Yu, one of the Taiko Kaua‘i members capitalized on this local knowledge to teach the rhythm patterns to the youngsters.

In keeping with the Japanese-themed celebration, Miyamoto also invited parents and their children to learn some of the bon dance season taught by volunteers from the WKH Hanapepe Temple.

The bon dance season will start in mid-June.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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