All About Asian Food

Boy's Day in Japan!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! While we're here in the states celebrating The Mexican Day of Independence, over in Japan its Tango no Sekku, Boys Day! Annually held on May 5th, the first day near summer, Boys Day is a festival celebrating the youthful personalities and happiness of children.

Boys Day Koi FlagsNo one actually knows when boy's day started. The furthest recorded time of the Boys Day celebration is around 593 A.D. Originally celebrated by Samurai warriors returning from battle, before it was known as a celebration for young men, it was a ritual. Samurai would return to their villages after a victory and erect flags and streamers in celebration. As time went on, the flags and streamers evolved into windsocks called Koinobori or Koi fish. There are usually multiple Koi windsocks hanging from each pole. Families will hang a flag for each boy in their house hold in order of eldest to youngest. The top fish is usually the largest fish and is the color black to symbolize power and strength. The cool thing about these flags is that as the wind blows, fish shaped flags, spring to life and actually appear to swim through the air! Holding a strong significance in many Asian cultures, the Koi represent the symbolic right of passage of a boy growing into a man. Highly respected because of their great strength and determination. Legend has it that if a Koi were to swim upstream, battling strong currents and seemingly impassible obstacles, it would be transformed into a majestic dragon at the end of its journey. No wonder why these energetic little fish hold such high regard! They turn into dragons!

In modern times, families will build small shrines at the entrance Dragon Guarding Templeof there households. The decorative arrangements include miniature helmets, samurai swords, suits of armor, bow and arrows, silk banner adorned with the families crest, and warrior dolls. It is placed in the first room of the house to ward off evil spirits that may try to enter, and also to remind the boys of the warrior inside of them. To complement the festivities, special foods are also eaten.

Sakura Mochi for Boys DaySweet glutinous rice treats called Chimaki and Kashiwa-mochi are filled with either sweet red beans or sweet rice paste. As a final touch, each mochi rice snack is wrapped in an oak leaf or a leaf for the Japanese iris. The iris leaf is long, narrow and kind of looks like a sword. Its name in Japanese, Shobu, means striving for success. Finley chopped iris leaves are also steeped in sake and warm baths as they are believed to cleanse evil spirits from the body. Of course the sake is only enjoyed by the fathers.

Happy Boy's Day everybody!

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