Japanese Festival of Children’s Day is a national holiday in Japan. In Coffs Harbour, we celebrate the day on the first Sunday in May.
The holiday apparently comes from an ancient Chinese story about Carp, which swam up a waterfall and turned into dragons. The Carp, or Koi in Japanese, became symbols of perseverance.
The Japanese version tells of the Koi swimming up the waterfall, but does not mention the dragons.
Families fly giant Carp windsocks from flagpoles next to the house for about one month before the holiday and about two weeks to a month after. These windsocks are called Koinobori – Carp flags.
Originally, flags with symbols of strength, such as Carp and the family crest, were flown on the same flagpole a streamer called a Fukinagashi was also flown. This symbolised the whip – the busho – samurai warrior leaders carried into battle. The busho was a symbol of the samurais’ authority. Later the other symbols were dropped, and only Carp and sometimes the Fukinagashi were used.
The Koinobori were presented to the people of Coffs Harbour in 2005 by the people of our sister city Sasebo, Japan, to enable the people of Coffs Harbour to understand the cultural significance of the ‘Boys’ Day Festival’. ‘Boys’ Day’ has been renamed in Japan as ‘Children’s Day’ to include all children in the festival.
In 2007, the inaugural event won a national award in the single project category of the 2007 Australian Sister Cities Association National Awards.
> About the Koi Society of Australia
The Koi Society was formed in Sydney in 1974 by a group of hobbyists for the enjoyment, protection, preservation and improvement of the Ornamental Japanese Koi Carp. There are now eight separate branches in NSW, from Shoalhaven to Coffs Harbour.
The KSA is internationally recognised and is a Chapter of the Japanese Central Body Zen Nippon Airinkai, and the patron of the KSA is His Excellency the Japanese Consulate General in Sydney.
The Coffs Harbour Branch was launched at the Coffs Harbour City Council Japanese Children’s Day Festival in May 2010 and now has 52 members. They will be holding their first annual show and holding a display of Koi Fish and an information booth at this year’s Children’s Day Festival.
International Judge Kate McGill from the UK, assisted by Gerard and Kazuyo McDonald, will select the prizewinning fish of the day and explain the reasons for their choice.
There are thirteen basic varieties of Koi Fish and dozens of sub categories.
Koi Fish originated in Japan back in 800AD and were bred as a food crop in the flooded rice fields and lakes in the Nigata Prefecture, north west of Tokyo.
Over the centuries, colourful fish were often observed and kept as pets. Selections of these were presented to the Emperor of the day, who named them Nishikigoi, meaning ‘living jewels’.
For the last two hundred years, Koi Fish have been bred commercially in Japan and sold to hobbyists and enthusiasts worldwide, and there are many international competitions.
Australia no longer allows the importation of exotic fish, and this has developed the Breeding skills of Australian Koi Breeders to a level that matches commercial breeders overseas. A local breeder may keep two fish from a spawning of hundreds, but they will be the highest quality fish.
Many members are content to just sit and watch the graceful antics of their fish swimming in an ornamental garden pond. It is a very relaxing pastime.
As an integral part of Japanese culture, Koi represent strength and determination overcoming adversity, and this is the subtle message for children at the Children’s Day Festival, which is symbolised by the flying of the Koi Kites –‘Koi Nobori’.
> Sunday 1 May at the Japanese Section of the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden – Coffs Harbour
All children and their parents are invited to come along, BYO picnic and join in activities at the Australian award winning Japanese Festival of Children’s Day.
Coffs Harbour City Council and the Friends of the Botanic Garden will be flying the 200 Koinobori Carp flags, given to the people of Coffs Harbour by the people of our sister city Sasebo.
Entertainment will be provided by Karate Demonstrations – the 15 piece Taiko Drummers performance group, Kizuna – 16 strong Japanese Traditional Dance Troupe, Games and Story Telling – Anime Fashion – Kite Flying – Bonsai Displays and the Japanese Calligraphy.
Workshops will include Origami– Calligraphy – Sushi Making – Manga Masks Design and Kite Making.
Major events at this year’s Festival will include: the judging of the Ornamental Japanese Koi Carp, with the Japanese Consulate General in attendance (TBA); the dance performance by a 16 strong Japanese dance troupe from Sydney, who have just finished a 3 month performance booking in New York; and the 15 piece Taiko Drummers performance group, Kizuna, who made such a lasting impression last year.
More food, including Japanese ‘Prawn Ball’ Vendors, Sushi, Japanese BBQ, Melonpan Bread, Drinks, Devonshire Teas, Confectionery.
Further information on the Coffs Harbour Branch of the KSA, phone 0428 380 201. Courtesy of Coffs Harbour City Council.