Sunday 6 May 2012

Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day)

Yesterday, 5th May, was Kodomo no Hi, Children's Day and a national holiday. Girls Day is on 3rd March and this one is mainly for the boys. A Japanese helmet on display perhaps in the tatami room and for a very lucky little boy, carp streamers flying from a flagpole in the garden. Driving round the Koriyama countryside this holiday week I saw lots of these (koi nobori 鯉のぼり)  though oddly hardly any in the Aizu area. I don't know the reason and neither did my friends. No kids? Custom dying out? Can't be bothered? Pity as the kids must love them and they're a joy to see. Around here you also see splendid banners (のぼり) made by craftspeople based in Sukagawa.

Sadly, the number of children in Japan is diminishing year by year with Fukushima seeing a big drop last year. Nationally the number of children (under 15) has been falling every year for the last 31 years. In Fukushima prefecture it has been falling about 2% a year but figures for 1 May this year are 15,494 down on the same date last year, a fall of 6%. Koriyama's seen the biggest drop - 3,800 less than last year. (And these figures don't include those who have moved away but have remained registered here.) 

Although the authorities are doing their best to make the place child friendly through health checks, free medical care, free breast milk testing, the provision of indoor play facilities and community care, there's still so much uncertainty. The clean up hasn't really got going yet and it's not clear what's going to happen to the evacuated areas. 

I know a few people who've put off starting a family for the time being and if this is a trend it will keep the figures depressed for a few more years yet.

May 5th was also a milestone in the nuclear saga. The last nuclear power plant (the Tomari plant in Hokkaido) was shut down for 71 days of routine tests, to be followed by 'stress tests'. Japan now has no nuclear reactors in operation - they used to supply nearly 30% of the nation's power. When will they re-open? The discussion goes on with no conclusion yet. The government is to announce a plan for supply and demand this next week and an energy saving appeal. It's going to be another hot summer.

Koi-nobori carp streamers and banners at a farmhouse between Koriyama and Miharu  a week ago.
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  1. Dear Anne, Could you please put this blog on your links list so that folks can learn about a way to be healthier in this new "hot" world? Thank You For Your Good Work, Pahl Dixon (

  2. Dear Anne
    Excuse this sudden message but I heard about your blog via my sculptor friend who works both in Scotland and Iwate.
    My name is Fumio Obata and I am a comic artist and illustrator in Edinburgh and I am Japanese.
    Ever since the disaster struck I kept a picture daily on my blog from Edinburgh, mainly concerning the response of the media here until around the day 50.

    Shamefully I couldn't keep up.

    But I always wanted to go back to the subject and find something more realistically fruitful.
    Recently I got contacted by an Italian magazine Internazionale
    who gives about 2 pages to a comic artist to fill in.
    And they want me to do one over Fukushima.

    I decided to return to Japan for a research and going to Miyagi prefecture for a volunteer work in late May,and draw the experience and rise some issues.
    But I also wonder if I stop by Koriyama area, is it possible that we could meet up?I am interested in your view as a Briton, living in Japan during such a difficult time and what's at stake in your opinion. It's entirely up to you to get back to me and I can still absorb so much from your blog.Thank you and all your brilliant work is impressive.

    All the best

    Fumio Obata

  3. May be you didn't see any Koi-nobori in the Aizu area because they might celebrate the "Tango no Sekku" ( a monthly later on 5 June following the old calendar like the Chinese New Year. This is 25 years back, but the country folk on the outskirts of Koriyama tended to raise their spectacular Koi-nobori and battle flags in June rather than May. So may be you'll see Koi-nobori streaming in Aizu if you go there on June 5?

  4. Hi
    I'd intended to drive out there at the beginning of June to see if you were right but didn't get round to it and no sightings from my friends in the area. But you are right and even if people don't put the streamers out then, they will celebrate as only then are the oak leaves out to wrap round the steamed cakes, and the iris leaves grown enough to put in the bath (shobu-yu), another Boy's Day tradition.