The Boys' Festival

Boys also have their very own special day in Japan, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month (May 5). Horses-symbols of manliness, strength, and bravery-and iris flowers-the narrow leaf of which is said to resemble a sword blade-are associated with the boys' festival, but the main public celebration consists of hoisting up paper carp (a type of large goldfish) on a flagpole outside the house. Families put up one carp for each boy, with bigger ones for the older sons. The carp, which swims upstream against great odds to have its young, symbolizes the determination, courage, and ability to overcome obstacles that Japanese boys are expected to develop.

Just as the girls celebrate their festival by displaying the family's heirloom dolls, the boys' festival also includes displaying the family's ancient samurai armor and weapons. The boys are then expected to bow to the armor, silently pledging to follow in their ancestors' footsteps as courageous young men. Also displayed are small images or dolls of famous generals and warriors, miniature examples of armor, weapons, helmets, war banners, and drums. Sometimes these displays include elaborate dioramas of ancient battles or well-known stories of Japanese heroes.

Emporor Doll

Dolls portraying the famous monk-warrior Benkei