Monday, May 5, 2014

Come and Play! It's Children's Day in Japan

Original Chikanobu (1838-1912)
Japanese Woodblock Print Children Playing

Children’s Day, also known as Kodomo no Hi, is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948. Although it is not known precisely when this day started to be celebrated, it was probably during the reign of the Empress Suiko (593–628 A.D.)'s_Day_(Japan)

Paper or cloth "carp" streamers are flown during the celebration. There is a carp for each child on the family's streamer. The carp on the top is the largest and represents the oldest child, with each carp getting smaller to symbolize the younger and youngest children. The carp, called koi in Japanese is a symbol of strength, courage and determination. The carp kites represent a wish for the Japanese sons and daughters to grow up to brave and strong.


The Boy Who Drew Cats – Japan

The Cat’s Elopement

The Snow Tomb

The Two Frogs

Snow Woman

Japanese Legends About Supernatural Sweethearts
Seven supernatural stories from the land of the rising sun.

Kids Web Japan - A number of Japanese folktales for your students to read. Later, they may explore the culture of Japan using different links.


Aino Folk-Tales by Basil Hall Chamberlain, 1888 - The Ainu are an ethnic minority in Japan, living primarily on the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaidō.

Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan by Richard Gordon Smith, 1918. A collection of “historical legends and folktales from Japan; themes include ghosts; unrequited love across social boundaries; Shinto landscape, tree and ocean spirits; and tales driven by Bushido and Buddhist ethics.”

Child Life in Japan Child-Life in Japan and Japanese Child Stories by Matilda Chaplin Ayrton, 1909.

Green Willow and other Japanese Fairy Tales by Grace Adams, 1910 – Thirty eight stories from the Land of the Rising ballads told to children, complemented by the gorgeous illustrations of Warwick Goble.

Japanese Folk Stories and Fairy Tales - Thirty-three folktales collected by Mary F. Nixon-Roulet and published in 1908. You can download the book for your own files.

Japanese Fairy Tales by Teresa Peirce Williston, 1911; step into the world of fairy tales with these thirteen stories, including The Bamboo Princess, The Great Stone Bowl and The Dragon Jewel.

Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki, 1908. A collection of Japanese fairy tales based on a version written in Japanese by Sadanami Sanjin. According to Ozaki, "These stories are not literal translations, and though the Japanese story and all quaint Japanese expressions have been faithfully preserved, they have been told more with the view to interest young readers of the West than the technical student of folk-lore."

Old-world Japan : legends of the land of the gods by Frank Rinder, 1895 

Tales of Old Japan by A.B. Mitford, 1910

The two books below are not available as a download but are available for purchase.

Folktales from the Japanese Countryside. (Fujita & Stallings, Libraries Unlimited 2008).
Stories to Play With (Fujita & Stallings, August House 1999) 


Comparing Japanese Folktales with American Tall Tales

Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs by J.M.W.Silver, 1867

Japanese Folktales Lesson Plans for K-8

Kites in the Classroom - Kites can be a remarkably efficient teaching tool, allowing teachers to integrate many subjects-science and technology, reading, writing, social studies, visual arts, math-within a single lesson or sequence of lessons.

Kamishibai (kah-mee-shee-bye) Kamishibai is a form of Japanese street storytelling dating back to the 1920’s. If you would like to know more about this charming art of storytelling, or incorporate it into your lesson plans, visit these sites:

Integrating Japanese Folk Tales into the Classroom Using Japanese Kamishibai
Addresses grades 2- 6 in the areas of social studies, language arts, and art

Teachers Guide to Kamishibai
This unit addresses the themes of Love of Family, Compassion, Courage and Sacrifice.

Teacher’s Resource Guide: Japanese Art and Culture Outreach Kit - Although you may not be able to borrow the actual kit, there are many helpful curriculum ideas in this guide you may duplicate on your own.


Activity Village – Make your own carp kite or
origami to celebrate Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day). There are many other crafts, activities and printables to make this Japanese national holiday shine!

Enchanted LearningJapanese Activities and Crafts: Lots of wonderful crafts, including easy origami, and classroom activities.

Japanese Fans made with paper plates. – If you are interested in learning more about origami, visit my previous blog post with additional resources.


Traditional Japanese Games
“Japan has many games that have been passed down through the generations. Rules and materials may change over time, but even today Japanese children are fond of pastimes from the old days. Some of the games introduced on these pages are probably similar to those in your own country.”

Japanese Games

Karen Chace 2014 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.