When traditional fish fly

KAPAIA — The symphony of “oohs” and “aahs” described the fascination of keiki from the Lihue Hongwanji Preschool, who took a walking tour under the canopy of koi nobori, last week in Kapaia Valley.

Inspired by a photograph taken in 1935 of Kapaia residents celebrating Japanese Boys Day, Laraine Moriguchi spearheaded an effort to resurrect the tradition of flying koi nobori, translated to mean climbing carp.

“This year, we have more than 300 koi nobori flying,” Moriguchi said. “Eventually, we want to have at least 600 koi nobori. The total represents the number of people who lived in the Kapaia area during its heyday in the sugar plantation era.”

She said they are still setting up fish and everything should be in place by Tuesday, the designated Boys Day.

The sight of the flying fish has already captured the attention of people who find the valley after seeing koi nobori flying while driving past on Kuhio Highway.

In Japan, the fifth day of the fifth month was traditionally known as Tango no Sekku and was a celebration for boys.

Girls have their own festival, falling on the third day of the third month and known as Hina Matsuri, or Doll Festival.

During the boys day celebration, families with boys fly huge carp-shaped streamers or wind socks which are called koi nobori. The flying carp symbolizes strength and success and is derived from Chinese legend, where a carp swam upstream to transform into a dragon.

Accompanying the koi nobori on the outside of the home, families often display dolls representing warriors and other folklore heroes.

Similarly, the Kapaia Valley displays cutouts of some of the traditional Japanese folklore heroes.

The koi nobori came to Hawaii with the Japanese people who were brought in to labor on the sugar plantations. In 1948, Boys Day was changed to Children’s Day, a national holiday in Japan when families celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children.

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