The Carp that Swims Upstream

There’s a saying in Japan: the carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon. The meaning, I presume, of this cryptic fortune-cookie sound byte is that persistence and hard work in the face of adversity will make you strong. I’ve felt a little like a carp myself lately. We are working to determine our departure date from Japan, and due to multiple variables that date could be as late as November or as early as late July. (Please notice that July is quite close to the current date. Alarmingly close, one might say. And I do. That is alarmingly close.) Hopefully we’ll just keep swimming and things will sort themselves out.

At any rate, we’re doing the best we can to make the most of the time we have left. Yesterday, you might have noticed, was a holiday. Huh? Cinco de what now? No! It was Children’s Day! On children’s day the Japanese celebrate the health and strength and happiness of their children, specifically boys. Since I have those in spades and this is our last May here, I thought I would pick up some Kodomo no Hi decorations. I know I’ve spoken before of my deep and abiding love of the Daiso (mmmm, Daiso…) and I knew they would hook me up. Sure enough, right inside the front door:

Carp galore!

Carp are a customary decoration for this holiday. (If, like me,you spent the last month driving around Japan saying, ‘Cool! Carp kites! I wonder what those are for!’ then things will start making a lot of sense.) The hope is that, like the carp, your boys will keep on swimming and one day grow to be dragons. The peculiar little statues with boys on them are traditional decorations as well; they are meant to represent folk heroes and warriors – again the hope is that sons will grow to be as strong and brave as they are. (look up Kintaro and Momotaro if you’re interested!)

We took our loot and went to play at a windy, mostly deserted hill that I know.

Cute. Super cute.

They cherries bloom here in profusion and, for some reason, no one is ever here. (What a contrast to our day trip to the castle! Sheesh!)

Such fun!

Once more, just because they’re so stinking cute.

Could this BE more picturesque?

So, we went and ran among the cherry blossoms with our carp kites, and in true hanami fashion we brought a treat to eat while we enjoyed the beauty.

Man. I wish I had some REAL taiyaki right now!

Mmmm, fish candy. Seriously, though, this is a candy homage to a real treat – Taiyaki! Taiyaki are basically fish-shaped waffles filled with custard, or cream, or chocolate, or red bean paste. (I’m not so keen on the red bean paste, but I’ll scarf down the others any day of the week!) If I may geek out on Japanese grammar for a moment, Taiyaki is a compound word comprised of two smaller segments: ‘tai,’ or a specific kind of fish, and ‘yaki,’ a frying method known from other such favorites such as yakisoba (fried noodles) and yakitori (fried chicken). ‘Yaki’ in the name of your food is generally a good sign. If you’re up on your hiragana, you’ll notice that these candy fish are labeled ‘pukupuku tai,’ or,  ‘bubbling fish,’ since the filling is commonly known as ‘choco with air,’ aka aerated chocolate. I love this, too. But back to the cherry blossoms!

Look at my guys...

Max looked at me strangely when I let him eat with Charlie over on the other side of the hill. “But Mommy, we’re so far away!” he shouted. He must have been remembering how I freaked out at him in Hirosaki when he tried to walk more than two steps away from me. I guess we haven’t covered ‘different rules for different situations’ well enough.

When we got home, we hung up our own koinobori on a pole on our porch.

They look like they are having a lot of fun swimming.

The wind did not cooperate well with my attempt to photograph them. Oh, well.  I got four: the top one is for Max, the second for Charlie, and the two black fish on the bottom are for Tommy and Teddy. I’m pretty sure that as far as traditional Japanese practice goes, I’ve hung them wrong…but I like them. And someday, maybe all my little carp will be dragons.


  1. bezzie says:

    What a fun day!!! I can’t believe it’s almost time to leave! Any idea where you’ll end up next? (Hee hee, prolly not…it’s a gov’t operation after all!)

  2. Jessica says:

    I love the carp kites too – if I had known about it being childrens day I would have tried to find one to hang up for my little boy. Perhaps next year :-)

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