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Celebrating Kodomo no Hi!

Dear Members and Friends of JASH,

On May 5 every year, we celebrate Kodomo no Hi ‘Children’s Day’! Traditionally known as Tango no Sekku or Iris Festival, on this day we celebrate the happiness of all children and express our gratitude towards all mothers.

This year, JASH is honored to present an essay by Mrs. Takako Aoki titled “Kazekaoru.” In this piece, Mrs. Aoki reflects on her memories of Children’s Day with her husband, Consul General Aoki, and their two sons. She paints a serene and loving picture of their Children’s Day decorations and festivities, from the stretchy kashiwamochi to the colorful koinobori flags swimming in the breeze. Much of this imagery is shared with local Hawaii Children’s Day celebrations, and so we are certain her essay will invoke nostalgia and fond memories for all of you as well.

Mahalo nui loa to Mrs. Aoki for sharing her wonderful memories with us!

“Kazekaoru” 『風薫る』

In Japan, there is a term kazekaoru, or “wind scent.” 『風薫る』という言葉が日本にはあります。 It refers to the gentle breeze that passes through the young leaves of trees, as they bask in the light of the early summer sunshine. 毎年初夏を迎えるこの時期、新緑がまぶしい木々の間を通る心地よい風をこう呼びます。 Tango no Sekku, or “Children’s Day,” which is celebrated annually on May 5, takes place during one of the most pleasant times of the year. Beneath the clear blue sky, koinobori, or “carp streamers,” gently blow in the wind, in gardens of families with boys. Yoroi kabuto, or “decorative armor and helmets” are also displayed inside homes, in hopes that the boys will grow to be healthy and strong. 5月5日の端午の節句は、まさに一年を通して最もすがすがしいこの季節にあります。青く澄み切った空のもと、さわやかな風に吹かれ男の子のいる家庭では鯉のぼりが庭先で泳ぎます。家の中では健やかにたくましく育ってほしいという願いを込め、鎧・兜(よろい・かぶと)が飾られます。

My husband and I have two sons. They were the grandchildren that both of our parents had longed for, and each family presented them with yoroi kabuto. My husband’s side gave us a traditional set that had been passed down from generation to generation, and my parents gave us a newly-purchased brave-faced samurai warrior doll, donned in armor and a helmet. 我が家には2人の息子がいます。息子たちは父母両家にとって待ち望んだ男の子の孫ということもあり、両家で鎧兜が飾られました。父方は代々受け継がれてきた古い伝統的な飾り、母方は勇ましい顔をした鎧兜を身に着けた人形を新しく贈ってくれました。

Although they were very young and did not understand much, our sons were very curious about these unusual displays, and I can still remember them stretching out their arms excitedly toward the dolls. And etched in mind is the memory of the boys gazing intently at the colorful little koinobori swimming about in the wind, on our balcony. Every year, the two brothers would look forward to the Children’s Day decorations to be put up. 何もわからない幼い子供たちですが普段と違う珍しい飾りに興味津々、つかもう として手を思いっきり伸ばしていた幼い姿が今でも浮かんできます。 ベランダに飾られた小さな鯉のぼりが風の中を泳いでいる姿を何十分でも飽きずに見つめていた愛おしい幼い姿を忘れられません。兄弟2人が一年のこの時期の飾りを心待ちにしていました。

They would also look forward to the kashiwamochi, a treat served only during Tango no Sekku. Kashiwa, or “oak,” leaves do not fall until new leaves grow, and are considered to be a symbol of prosperity of one’s descendants. Our boys used to pull apart one mochi into small pieces and eat them a little at a time, but now watching them all grown up and popping whole mochis in their mouth one after another, has made me aware, distinctly, of the passage of time.


Also, during this time of year, we would always decorate our home with ayame, or iris, flower arrangements. Before May 5, the leaves in the arrangements would be kept longer than the height of the flower stems, then after May 5, the flower stems would grow beyond the height of the leaves, and must be rearranged once again. また、我が家ではこの時期、菖蒲の生け花を飾ります。 5月5日以前は、花よりも葉が長いことから葉を高く生け、5月5日を過ぎると花の茎がどんどん伸びて葉を越してしまうので、花を高く生けなおします。

Yoroi kabuto displays, the koinobori, kashiwamochi, and ayame flower arrangements are brought together, only during this special time of year. As we raised our sons, I became increasingly aware of these Japanese traditions, which I had never really paid too much attention to, in the past. 鎧兜、鯉のぼり、柏餅、菖蒲の生け花はこの時期だけの特別な組み合わせです。 以前ははあまり意識しなかったこうした日本の伝統を、息子を育てていく中で強く意識するようになりました。 I am looking forward to enjoying a kazekaoru, ‘wind scent-filled’ May, with much gratitude that I was able to enjoy another peaceful year…as I decorate our home, once again, the way I have always done, in celebration of Tango no Sekku. 昨年と同じ飾りをし、端午の節句を同様に祝うということが、平穏に1年を過ごせたということであると感謝しつつ、風薫る5月を今年も心待ちにしています。 (Image credit: Koinobori by Yasuko Goto; Yoroi Kabuto by Hideki Ueha; Koinobori by Bong Grit; Kashiwa mochi by arty822; Ayame arrangement by Chihiro Kubota)

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