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Colorful koinobori draw attention to Children's Day

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2008-04-25

Thousands of brilliant colored streamers shaped like fish are popping up across Okinawa to commemorate Kodomo no hi, Children’s Day, with the biggest and the best lining the Hija River in Kadena Town.

Officially, the Hija River Festival begins Sunday, with thousands of the carp streamers flying from bridges, roadways and buildings. The festival, which runs through May 11th, signals the start to Golden Week, with particular tribute to Children’s Day May 5th. Originally known as Boys’ Day, kodomo no hi is now Children’s Day, a day when parents pray for their children to grow up healthy.

Traditionally, it’s also a day to honor sons, and Japanese families with boys hang colorful carp streamers, the koinobori, outside their homes, and often display May dolls inside. This year’s festival sponsored by the Kadena Town Social Welfare Association and the Hija River Koinobori Festival Committee, takes place in and around the Kadena Town Welfare Center.

Sunday’s opening will feature a hoisting ceremony where 400 streamers are placed by children. There will be festival activities along the river, including dragon boats and canoes. It’s a kids event, so expect plenty of focus on youngsters, including free throw and dart games, a stamp rally, and a childrens’ restaurant.

The 14th Hija River Carp Streamer Festival theme this year is to focus attention on the children’s changing environment, declining birth rates and increasing levels of child abuse. Organizers say the festival is a key part of the children’s welfare week’s work, and has full support from both community groups and the government. The festival wants to put the focus on children’s dreams and hopes, and the festival site along the river will empower youngsters to commune with nature and the community.

The festival runs through May 11th, but the streamers will only be flying until the 6th. Each evening there will be illuminations along the Hija River, there will be children’s theater, bingo, singing contests and shows.

Festival parking around the Hija River Festival site will be clearly identified along Routes 73 and 84. The festival is free, and open to the general public.

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