Posted by: softypapa | November 17, 2007

Vintage Japan Shikishi Art – Boys Day Koinobori Nihonga


This Japanese painting (nihonga) dates from the mid to late Japanese Showa period (1926-1989) and features the image of two Japanese carp streamers (koinobori) billowing from a flagpole.  The painting was done on a rectangular sheet of stiff Japanese shikishi paper with gold trim at the edges.  This nihonga painting is in fair condition with some marks, stains and creases and is a wonderful candidate for framing and display.

Large carp steamers are traditionally flown in Japan by families with young boys.  The streamers are hoisted upon tall flagpoles where they billow and swim through warm breezes and can typically be seen from early April through the middle of May.  The number of fish are usually taken to represent the number of males in the household and are invariably ordered with the largest fish (representing the eldest male) on top followed by subsequently smaller (younger) fish.  Please read below to learn more about Boy’s Day.

Height: 10.5 inches (27.0 centimeters)
Width: 9.4 inches (24.0 centimeters)

Click here to see more Japanese art!
here to see other Boy’s Day items!
here to see additional treasures from Japan!

More About Boy’s Day

Oak leaves, iris root, peach boy, golden child and giant fish flying high in the sky…these are just some of the more significant images traditionally associated with boys in Japan during the May 5th celebration of Boy’s Day.  Called Tango no Sekku in Japanese and meaning “First Day of the Horse”, this special day has for centuries been a time to honor, celebrate and instruct young boys in the manly responsibilities they are expected to assume when grown.  With the samurai warrior as their model, boys in Japan are taught to be strong, honest and willing to overcome any obstacle or evil in the course of fulfilling their duty.  To this end, icons of courage, leadership and service are used by families and communities to make clear to young boys their role and function in society.

Like the March 3rd celebration of Girl’s Day, when beautiful dolls of the imperial court are arranged and displayed in the family home, similar arrangements are also put on display for Tango no Sekku.  However, Boy’s Day displays have a decidedly masculine feel, with popular dolls being figures representing traditional male heroes such as Kintaro (golden boy), a legendary Japanese youth of incredible strength; or Momotaro (peach boy), the perfect son and defender of the weak.  Additional dolls are sometimes displayed which represent historic figures from Japanese and even Chinese military history.  Small suits of armor with assorted weapons are also very popular and complete displays can be purchased at department stores and specialty shops in the months leading up to May.  Homes with male offspring may also fly huge banners shaped like colorful carp fish (koi) from tall flag poles.  These banners, called koinobori in Japanese, though more popular in the past can today still be seen flying boldly above the courtyards of large country farmhouses and even from the balconies of cramped city apartments.  Carp are appreciated in both China and Japan as symbols of success, and one popular Chinese legend tells of a particularly determined fish who succeeded in battling his way upstream to eventually become a dragon.  In 1948 legislation was passed in Japan renaming Boy’s Day as “Children’s Day” (kodomo no hi).  However, in practice most Japanese families still choose to honor their daughters with a day of their own on March 3rd, while allowing their sons their own special day on the “First Day of the Horse”.

item code: R4S5B2-0003355
category code: nihonga
ship code: shikishihako

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