Saturday, May 5, 2012

Flat Stanley Celebrates Children's Day

Today is Kodomo no hi (KO-DO-MO NO HEE), or Children's Day, all over Japan.  This is the fourth and last national holiday that falls during Golden Week.

It has been called Children's Day for the last 60 years but before that it was Boys' Day (Tengo no Sekku) and that's how most Japanese still celebrate this holiday.

I was glad to hear that there is a separate holiday for girls on March 3.  It is called the Doll Festival or Hina Matsuri (HEE-NAH MAT-SOO-REE).  On that day most families with girls display dolls dressed like the emperor, empress, and their court.  Some displays are simple dolls and cards but others are very fancy and can cost hundreds of thousands of yen.

Today families pray for the health and future success of their sons.  They fly carp streamers called koinobori (KO-EE-NO-BO-REE) outside their houses.  They decorate the inside of their houses with samurai (SAH-MOO-RAH-EE) dolls or tiny samurai gear like armor, swords, bows and arrows, and helmets.

Samurai is the Japanese word for warrior.  Samurai were important in Japan for more than one thousand years, until about 1860.  Today people all around the world still study and practice the martial arts the samurai invented.  Have you ever heard of judo or kendo or aikido?

Today my new friend, Hisayo (HEE-SAH-YO), showed me how to make a samurai helmet.  The Japanese word for samurai helmet is kabuto (KAH-BOO-TO).  She used fabric to make my kabuto but we can make them out of paper, too.  I bought some Japanese paper for you today.  While you wait for it to get there, you might want to practice making kabuto with newspaper.

Here are directions for making a paper kabuto and here are some pictures Hisayo took while she was making mine.    

It's starting to look like a helmet!

Hisayo showed me what her name looks like in kanji (KAHN-JEE).  Kanji are symbols invented in China that Japanese people sometimes use to write words.  They are the most complicated of the three different writing systems Japanese children learn in school.  How would you like to learn three different alphabets?

The kanji symbol for Hisayo means "happiness".  I think this is the perfect word to describe my new friend.  She filled me with happiness when she taught me how to make a kabuto.

Tomorrow I am going to visit a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple.  It seems like a good way to spend a Sunday.  The post office is closed on Monday so I cannot come home until Tuesday.  What should I do on Monday? 

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