Top 4 Japanese Koinobori Festivals
“Koinobori” has been a Japanese custom from long ago. It is a tradition in which colorful “koi”(carp) are depicted on banners and placed up high to flow in the wind to celebrate the “Kodomo no hi”(Children’s Day) -also known as “Tango no Sekku” – on May 5th. The meaning behind the tradition roots back to samurai families in the Edo Period. Boys were considered important heir so the event was celebrated in hopes that they will succeed in life as the koi swimming up the river as well as to wish for their good health. The koinobori banners are generally put up not only on May 5th but around early April to a little after May 5th, which is right about now.
In this article, we have selected the Top 4 Famous koinobori festivals in Japan. Each one is unique so it should be very interesting to look at them all. Come and see the regular life of Japanese!
Kumamoto Prefecture, Tsuetate onsen
1. The birthplace of the koinobori – Koinobori festival
Koinobori matsuri （鯉のぼり祭り）
The koinobori matsuri (festival) of Tsuetate Onsen in Kumamoto Prefecture is said to be the birthplace of the koinobori. It is a festival with a history of about 40 years. There are so many koi swimming very graciously. Just look at the vivid colors.
Going downstream from the Tsuetate River where the koinobori are displayed, there is a Momiji bridge where many Ema are hung. In Japan, there are things called Ema which are wooden votive tablets depicting the image of a horse, but these are Egoi depicting koi. If you look closely, you can see they are shaped like koi fish. Since 鯉koi, the carp is pronounced the same as the word 恋koi for love, it has been said that making a wish on these egoi will help you meet your true love!
Dates: April 1 ～ May 6
Official Website: Tsuetate onsen
2. So big koinobori – Kazo Citizen’s Peace Festival
Kazo Shimin Heiwa Matsuri （加須市民平和祭）
The Kazo Shimin Heiwa Matsuri or the Kazo Citizen’s Peace Festival is held every year on May 3rd by the Tonegawa River in Kazo-shi, Saitama Prefecture as a local event. The highlight is the 100 meter long koi! It swims dynamically in the sky as it would if it could swim in the ocean. It is so large, that as you can see, they need a crane to lift it up. To get it up into the sky to see it start swimming is also a sight you have to see. It is even larger than you would imagine!
Dates: May 3
Official Website: Kazo Shimin Heiwa Matsuri
3. The Most Number of Koinobori in the World – Koinobori Village Festival
Koinobori no sato matsuri （こいのぼりの里まつり）
The feature of this festival held in Tatebayashi-shi, Gunma Prefecture is the sheer number of koinobori above anything else! It is famous for over 5,000 koinobori all swimming at once in 5 different venues. The number of koinobori is a Guinness Record. This is Tsuruuda-gawa River, the main venue. The koi that is reflected on the water surface gives off the illusion that there are even more koi than there actually are!
Dates: March 25 ～ May 8
Official Website: Koinobori no sato matsuri
4. 333 koinoboris + just 1 large one – Tokyo Tower
For those of you who do not get out to the countryside too often, you can see koinobori from the Tokyo Tower from April 3rd to May 6th. As a tribute to the height of the tower, which is 333m tall, there is a display of 333 koi and just 1 large Sanma(saury)nobori. The night view together with the illuminated tower has already become a special custom.
Dates: April 3 ～ May 6
Official Website: Tokyo Tower
We have looked at events all featuring the koinobori. We hope you were able to see that there are various highlights depending on the area these festivals are held. We hope you will also put up your own special koinobori! Having a display of koinobori in your home country just may put you in the center of attention!