Gogatsu Ningyo, the Dolls of Boys’ Day

Japan has some of the most amazing dolls in the world, and when I went to visit my wife’s family during Golden Week, I was surprised to see that one of the rooms in the house had been taken over by an enormous display of gogatsu ningyo (literally ‘May dolls’) in honor of my new son.

The official name of the holiday being celebrated is Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s Day, and it comes on May 5th, every year, but it used to be called Tango no sekku, and was originally just for boys. The festival is centuries old, and no one knows exactly where it came from or how it originated, but there are some theories here.

Anyway, it’s basically a day to wish for the health and happiness of male children, and there are a lot of masculine symbols associated with it, like the above tiger and the below carp.

These are irises, the flower that gives the festival its old name, Shobu no Sekku. Irises were used in purifying rituals, and because the word for iris, shobu, sounds like the word for military spirit, it also became associated with samurai virtues.

0 replies
  1. AdelaideBen
    AdelaideBen says:

    That’s one helluva impressive kabuto at the top. It’s great that the Japanese do these sorts of things, as it definitely adds to the sense that there’s more to life than just the everyday. I hope that the kids these days take notice – and not that it just becomes something for parents to do.

  2. Troo
    Troo says:

    The dolls are gorgeous, of course, but I’m really drawn to those tigers!

    Are they not out because it’s the year of the Tiger at the moment perhaps? (i.e. is your son a Tiger?)

    Either way, they’re lovely!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] FACE | OSAKA, JAPAN: It’s not May yet, but gogatsu ningyo (“May doll”) typically adorn houses starting in late March. (Photo by Brian […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply