Today is the last of the golden week holidays (not counting the one tomorrow that serves as a stand-in for the “missed” Greenery Day yesterday). It is based on a very old traditional holiday, tango-no-sekku that focuses on boys, but, with gender equality and all that, it is now officially called kodomo-no-hi or children’s day.
Many houses with children or boys put up banners that look like carp, called koi-no-bori, and each carp is supposed to represent one boy (child) of the family, and the two largest ones the parents. The (golden) koi is considered a most energetic fish, and flying those banners is more or less a wish for the boys in the household to be healthy and energetic.
Another tradition on this day is to display dolls of samurai in full armour, including miniature helmets, swords and other weapons, war drums… Again, it is meant as a wish for the boys to be strong and healthy, and it is a tradition going back to samurai families only. Special sweets can not be missing, and you can eat kashiwa mochi (red-bean filled rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves) for example.
For me, this day is special too: I came to Japan exactly a year ago. I treated myself to a visit of a traditional machiya, a special type of merchant’s houses, with several courtyards and storage houses, a tea room and Noh stage… The guided tour I took was conducted by a young girl from Poland, interestingly, and instead of the 45 minutes or so it was supposed to take, we spent about two hours in the house as I was the only guest at that time – sometimes it is nice to get out in the rain…
What is my conclusion after one year in Japan? Things have not quite turned out as I had envisioned – everything goes much slower than I had expected – but nevertheless, it’s time to celebrate: I have taken considerable time to search for myself (although I’m not sure I have found me yet) and what I want to do with my life. I have also developed a much more relaxed attitude towards things, although sometimes it feels close to not caring about stuff anymore, which I find scary. All in all I could say that I am feeling more centred somehow, more resting within myself (and now that I write this I wonder if an excentric person is the opposite) and I do not regret my step at all. It was a good decision.