Event & Culture

May 5th is "Tango no Sekku" (Boy's Day celebration).

2016.04.13

"Gogatsu ningyo" dolls, which are used to pray for the healthy growth of boys, are a tradition stretching back to samurai society in the Edo period.

Ginza Mitsukoshi 9F: Ginza Terrace/Terrace Room (ends April 19)

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May 5th is called "Tango no Sekku" in Japan. On this day families decorate their homes with suits of armor, helmets, and warrior dolls, as a means to pray for the healthy growth of their boys. "Ginza Terrace/Terrace Room," located on the 9F of Ginza Mitsukoshi, features a wonderful lineup of brave-looking gogatsu ningyo dolls.

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"Tango no Sekku" is said to have been handed down from China during the Nara period. "Tango" originally meant "the first day of the horse in a given month" (in the old Japanese calender). This means that it was not only limited to May, and since the words for horse and five share the same pronunciation ("go") it began to take on the meaning of the fifth day of each month, and finally came to represent the fifth of May.

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During Tango no Sekku families traditionally decorate their homes with gogatsu ningyo dolls and carp streamers. They also take a special kind of bath called shobuyu in which Japanese iris stems are placed in the water to pray for good health. The tradition of decorating one's home with gogatsu ningyo dolls comes from Japanese samurai society. Suits of armor and helmets were very important for men in samurai society. The word for Japanese iris ("shobu") is pronounced the same as the word for "militarism," a concept that holds martial arts and military prowess in high regard. This began to have the meaning of praying for the healthy growth of boys, and eventually families began the tradition of decorating their homes with suits of armor and helmets--the symbols of warriors.

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There are many kinds of gogatsu ningyo dolls. One example is this "yoroidoko ningyo." Clad in armor, it looks dignified and solemn.

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Featuring a dragonfly design that represents victory and drive, it symbolizes the mindset of a valiant warrior.

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There are two major types of samurai suits of armor. One is the highly decorative and colorful Kyo kacchu type. This colorful helmet storage decoration from Kyo kacchu armorer Issui Heian features a beautiful gold embossed helmet. It can be stored in the decorative stand for convenient storage. It is not necessary to put gogatsu ningyo dolls away quickly, so they can be enjoyed until the middle of May and then put away on a fine day.

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The other type of samurai suit of armor is the Edo kacchu, which features a simple design and gives off a feeling of power. Designed with calm tones, this beautiful helmet alcove decoration was created by Edo kacchu armorer Icchu Kato.

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Decorating one's home with carp streamers is another Tango no Sekku tradition. Carp streamers go back to the Edo period, where streamer decorations were installed to celebrate the birth of a boy in the shogun's family.

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People then began to design the streamers to look like carp, based on the legend of carp swimming up a waterfall to become dragons and ascend to heaven. This started the tradition of decorating homes with carp streamers to pray for the healthy growth of boys. Easy to decorate, carp streamers are sure to bring joy to any celebration.

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Although Tango no Sekku was originally for praying for the healthy growth of boys, as times have changed it now is commonly known as "Children's Day." Resplendent and brave, gogatsu ningyo dolls solemnly watch over the healthy growth and perfect health of children.

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