Tango no sekku

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Tango no Sekku (端午の節句), also known as Ayame no hi (Iris festival), is one of the five annual ceremonies that were traditionally held at the Japanese imperial court called Gosekku. It is the Japanese equivalent of Double Fifth and was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon in the lunar calendar or Chinese calendar. After Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar, the date was moved to May 5. [1] Other festivals are celebrated on the same day in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as the Duanwu Festival or Tuen Ng Festival (Cantonese), in Korea as the Dano Festival, and Vietnam as the Tết Đoan Ngọ on the traditional lunar calendar date.


Tan () means "beginning" and go ( ) is a simplified form of ⾺ (horse), referring to the Chinese zodiac name for the fifth lunar month. Days of the week also have zodiac animals. Thus, tango originally meant "the first horse day of the fifth month". However, go is a homonym for 五 (five) in Japanese, so during the Nara period the meaning shifted to become the fifth day of the fifth month. [2] Sekku means a seasonal festival. There are five sekku, including O-Shogatsu (January 1), Hina Matsuri (March 3), Tanabata (July 7) and Kiku Matsuri (September 9) along with Tango. Tango no Sekku marks the beginning of summer or the rainy season.


"Japanese Festival in Honor of the Birth of Children" from Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs, by J.M.W. Silver, illustrated by native drawings, published in London in 1867 Japanese Festival in Honor of the Birth of Children.jpg
"Japanese Festival in Honor of the Birth of Children" from Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs, by J.M.W. Silver, illustrated by native drawings, published in London in 1867

Although it is not known precisely when this day started to be celebrated, it was probably during the reign of the Empress Suiko (593628 A.D.). In Japan, Tango no Sekku was assigned to the fifth day of the fifth month after the Nara period.

Until recently, Tango no Sekku was known as Boys' Day (also known as Feast of Banners) while Girls' Day ( Hinamatsuri ) was celebrated on March 3. In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers. It was renamed Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day) and changed to include both boys and girls.

Before this day, families raise the carp-shaped koinobori flags (carp because of the Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon, and the way the flags blow in the wind looks like they are swimming), one for each boy (or child), display a Kintarō doll usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto . Kintarō and the kabuto are symbols of a strong and healthy boy.

Kintarō (金太郎) is the childhood name of Sakata no Kintoki who was a hero in the Heian period, a subordinate samurai of Minamoto no Raikou, having been famous for his strength when he was a child. It is said that Kintarō rode a bear, instead of a horse, and played with animals in the mountains when he was a young boy.

Mochi rice cakes wrapped in kashiwa (oak) leaveskashiwa-mochi (mochi filled with red bean jam) and chimaki (a kind of "sweet rice paste", wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf)are traditionally served on this day.

See also


  1. Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al (2005). "Tango no Sekku" in Japan Encyclopedia, pp. 948. , p. 948, at Google Books
  2. "端午の節句と5月人形" [Tango no sekku and May dolls] (in Japanese). Japanese Doll Association. Retrieved 7 May 2014.

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The Gosekku (五節句), also known as sekku (節句), are the five annual ceremonies that were traditionally held at the Japanese imperial court. The origins were Japanese practices merged with Chinese practices and celebrated in Japan since the Nara period in the 8th century CE. The Japanese culture and tradition incorporated this in a unique way that spread throughout the country. The festivals were held until the beginning of the Meiji era. Some of them are still celebrated by the public today.