The Flying Carp of Japan: Recommended places in 2020 and the Importance of Koi Nobori and Kanzarashi
- Festivals / Japan / Koi Nobori
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Once a year, you will see Japan decorated by beautiful colored carp into the wind to celebrate Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day), one of the five important events that take place annually.
Kodomo no Hi and the Meaning of Koi Nobori
Celebrated on the 5th of May every year, Children’s Day in Japan was also known as Tango-no-sekku or Ayame no Hi/Iris Day in the past.
It was originally a day that celebrated the boys and their growth, and it is said that colored carp were raised for the sons of the family (the eldest would always be receiving a red-colored carp).
Koi Nobori (Carp streamers) are a symbol of good health and are meant to be an auspicious charm for the children.
Flying the carp and wishing for healthy growth has become an important tradition for all children in Japan and their families and it is a meaningful custom that can also be associated with spring and beginning of Tsuyu梅雨(rainy season) and summer.
Below, I will recommend a few of the spots you can visit and enjoy the beautiful view of flying carp:
1. Tsuedate Onsen Koinobori Festival
Held annually from 1st of April to 6th of May, you can enjoy the carp streamers at the koinobori festival at Tsuedate Onsen.
This festival is well-known because approximately 3,500 carp streamers fly in the sky, or better say swim over the Tachikawa river.
It is said that Tsuedate Onsen is the place where the carp streamer festivals originated and besides the festival and beautiful view, you can also take your time, relax in the hot springs, enjoy the many events held for children or take a stroll at night and immerse yourself in the unique landscape of the lit-up koinobori.
2. Koinobori no Sato Matsuri in Gunma Prefecture
The Festival is held at Tsuruda Gawa from early April and you can enjoy the koinobori display together with the beautiful sakura trees.
3. Koi Nobori in Takatsuki
From the 25th of April to the 5th of May, you can participate in the koi nobori festival held at Takatsuki and enjoy over more than 1,000 flying carps at Akutagawa Sakurazutumi Park along the festive atmosphere and vibrant music of the festival.
Is Kanzarashi a festival and how is it related to Koi Nobori?
A meaningful winter tradition that is held every year in Gujo Hachiman of Gifu Prefecture is Kanzarashi.
Kanzarashi is a “washing performance” of carp-streamers in the cold winter days when craftsmen give a beautiful performance of their technique.
They light up the carp a night before and put them in the rivers, so the view of the swimming koi looks marvelous at night.
By doing so, the fabric ends up with the beautiful vibrant colors we see on the flying carp rising in the skies from April to May.
The reason for that is because of the chilling winter temperature that tightens it after washing.
The authentic techniques of Gujo Honzome dyeing were persevered up to now and to use it, the craftsmen need to be experts in exposing this art.
The festival is held from January 20th to the 2nd of February and you can see the lit-up carp from 5 pm on the 19th of January and 1st of February while enjoying a nice cup of the popular Japanese drink, Amazake.
I warmly recommend coming to Japan during this period to enjoy not only the carp streamers, but the beautiful landscape composed of them and the many flowers that bloom during spring.