The Bridge under the River Koi!

May 21st, 2009By Category: Culture

the-bridge-under-the-river-koiFor those unfamiliar with Japanese holidays, Golden week is a grouping of four national holidays within a seven day period that practically rivals Obon and the New Year celebration in importance to the Japanese people. With Japanese people working as hard as they do, it is often difficult as it for them to take vacations.

As many companies shut down for the Golden Week period, the holidays have taken on special significance for the Japanese. For too many of them, this is the only time they have to take off with their families and enjoy themselves.

The first of these holidays falls on the 29th of April and is called “Showa no hi.” It was the birthday of the former “Showa” Emperor whom most people know as the late Emperor Hirohito. The next holiday follows four days later on May 3rd and is called “Kenpo kinenbi” or Constitution Day to honor the enactment of the post war Peace Constitution.

May 4th is “Midori no hi” or Greenery Day which is dedicated to the environment and nature. The last holiday and perhaps the most important falls on May 5th and is called “Kodomo no hi” or Children’s day. Because of the holidays this year, as well as the previous year, spanned the weekend, Japanese law dictated that May 6th be added to the holiday period too. Kodomo no hi is also known as the boy’s festival or Tango no sekku.

Don’t worry about discrimination against the girls; they have their own holiday on the 3rd of March. On this day however, families pray for the health and success of their sons by displaying samurai dolls in their homes and much more visibly by hanging brightly colored streamers of carp known as “Koi no bori” from their house tops. Koi are often a symbol of strength because they have the ability to swim against the strong current as well as being industrious for their ability to clean up rivers.

It only makes sense for parents to wish their children, especially their sons, to be strong and ambitious. Each year the people of Japan go all out during Golden Week by putting out Koi banners at their homes. Sometimes whole villages get in the act by putting out very large and colorful displays for everyone to enjoy. On Okinawa, perhaps one of the best displays is in the tiny village of Oku in far northern Okinawa. This year they out did themselves by putting up a total of 500 banners (more than the local population) which were strung across the river valley and put on display for everyone to enjoy.

To facilitate people’s enjoyment, they also erected a temporary walking bridge to ease access to the opposite river bank and built a temporary stage for evenings of music and fun put on by local entertainers. After the week long celebration is over, the Koi banners are carefully taken down and safely stowed away. Likewise, the temporary bridge and the stage will be disassembled put away and any of the banners damaged by the elements are either repaired or replaced.

Once again, Oku returns to its quiet solitude for another year. However, it seems that each year, even though tiny little Oku remains for the most part unchanged, the number of banners hung out each year seems to grow by just a few more.

Author of this article

Keith Graff

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