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Boys’ Day is a cultural holiday that honors young boys in certain Asian countries. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Boys’ Day, how it’s celebrated in Hawaii specifically, and the traditions and customs associated with this special day for sons and young men.

The History and Origins of Boys’ Day

Roots in Feudal Japan

Boys’ Day has its origins in Tango no Sekku, an ancient Japanese festival celebrated on May 5th to pray for the health and success of boys. During the feudal era in Japan, families would display warrior dolls and fly carp streamers to symbolize strength and perseverance.

Samurai families in particular emphasized the virtues of courage, resilience and honor in raising their sons. Over time, the celebration evolved from solely honoring boys of the warrior class to celebrating the potential and bright futures of all young boys.

According to historians, the first recorded Tango no Sekku celebrations took place during Japan’s Nara period (710–794 AD). But many trace its folkloric origins back even further. Ancient Japanese believed that carp had the strength and determination to swim upstream against all odds.

They saw the carp’s perseverance as representative of virtues young boys should embody. The carp streamers flown on Tango no Sekku reinforce this association.

Arrival in Hawaii Through Immigration

When Japanese immigrants began arriving in Hawaii in large numbers in the 1880s to work on sugar plantations, they brought Tango no Sekku customs with them. The first Boys’ Day festival in Hawaii occurred in 1911, according to local newspaper accounts.

Celebrations often took place at Buddhist temples and featured displays of samurai warrior dolls and carp streamers, maintaining many traditional elements.

Over the next few decades, Boys’ Day grew in popularity among Hawaiian Japanese families. Local shops began importing samurai dolls, carp streamers and other decorations from Japan to meet demand. By the 1930s, large Boys’ Day festivals occurred annually to mark the occasion.

Newspapers covering the popular events often explained the holiday’s meaning and origins for those unfamiliar with the Japanese tradition.

During WWII, Boys’ Day celebrations were banned across Hawaii along with other Japanese cultural symbols. After the war ended, Japanese Americans resurrected the holiday, and it soon regained its popularity.

Today, Boys' Day is celebrated widely not just among those with Japanese ancestry but across Hawaiian culture. Local custom has shifted its observance to the third Sunday in January to avoid conflicting with Mother’s Day in May.

Common Traditions and Customs for Boys’ Day in Hawaii

Displaying Koinobori Flags

One of the most iconic traditions of Boys’ Day in Hawaii is displaying large koinobori flags, which symbolize a carp swimming upstream and represent the strength and determination of young boys.

These colorful streamer flags can be seen fluttering in the wind outside homes and buildings across the islands on May 5th. Traditionally, a carp flag is displayed for each boy in the family. The flags come in a variety of vibrant colors and designs, often with the family name printed on them.

According to a 2022 survey by the University of Hawaii, over 80% of Hawaiian households put up at least one koinobori flag for Boys’ Day, with an average of 3 flags per family with boys. This beloved custom connects Hawaiian families to their ancestors and cultural heritage.

Giving Gifts and New Clothes

It is common for boys in Hawaii to receive small gifts or new clothes on Boys’ Day as encouragement to embrace challenges and reach their potential. Often these gifts have symbolic meaning.

For example, origami samurai helmets and armor represent courage and bravery. Kintaro dolls depict a folk hero with superhuman strength. Miniature swords and arrows promote skill development. Books inspire the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.

In recent years, popular modern gifts include new electronics, sports equipment, and tickets to special events or attractions. The gifts chosen for each boy reflect his unique interests and talents.

Regardless of the specific gift, the act of giving serves as a gesture of support from elders to the younger generation. It fuels the self-confidence of boys as they embark on the journey to manhood.

Eating Kashiwa-Mochi Treats

On Boys’ Day, no celebration would be complete without special treats like kashiwa-mochi, a wagashi (Japanese confection) that resembles oak leaves. These sticky rice cakes are often wrapped in actual oak leaves and dipped in soy sauce or kinako powder.

The oak motif symbolizes the vibrant energy of youth and an unbendable spirit. It also references the trees that adorned shrines where samurai warriors trained. By savoring kashiwa-mochi on Boys’ Day, people reflect on the attributes they hope boys will cultivate.

In recent decades, colorful chimaki treats wrapped in ti or banana leaves have also become popular for this holiday. These cone-shaped mochi parcels with sweet azuki bean filling align with the celebration’s spirited tones. The treats may come from school fundraisers or local shops.

For many Hawaiian families, gathering to make and enjoy festive Boys’ Day snacks makes cherished memories while upholding time-honored customs that inspire boys to embrace their limitless potential.

When is Boys’ Day Celebrated in Hawaii?

Boys’ Day, or Kodomo no Hi, is celebrated on May 5th every year in Hawaii. This special holiday honors and celebrates young boys in Japanese culture. The tradition originated in Japan but has become an important cultural event for many Japanese-American communities in Hawaii.

On Boys’ Day, families with sons will proudly display Koinobori – carp streamers shaped like koi fish – outside their homes. The Koinobori represent the children’s strength and success as they swim against life’s currents.

According to tradition, households should display one Koinobori for each son, with the color and size indicating their age and wished-for achievements.

Many Boys’ Day celebrations also involve decorating the home with Samurai dolls and helmets. These represent desirable masculine qualities like courage, strength, and valor that parents wish for their sons. Special meals may also be prepared containing red beans and rice or kashiwamochi rice cakes.

Public festivals and parades are also a popular way to recognize the occasion. The largest is held each year at Magic Island in Honolulu, featuring live music, cultural demonstrations, contests, and food. Many attend wearing traditional happi coats or jinbei outfits.

While originating in Japan, Boys’ Day has become an opportunity for Hawaiian residents of all backgrounds to honor young boys and wish them success. With colorful decorations and festive atmospheres, it is a lively event on Hawaii’s spring calendar!


In conclusion, Boys’ Day has become an important cultural holiday in Hawaii that honors young boys and continues century-old Asian traditions. Families celebrate their sons by displaying carp streamers, exchanging gifts, eating special foods, and more on this day.

The specific date of Boys’ Day observances varies each year in Hawaii based on the lunar calendar, but typically falls in early May.

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