Look up! It’s koi nobori season!

In Japan ’tis the season to look to the sky for swimming fish!

Koi nobori at Tokyo Tower

May 5th is the holiday formerly known as Boys’ Day, but now the charming flags called koi nobori fly for girls too. On Children’s Day, any child can be the carp that climbs the waterfall to become a dragon.

Koi nobori woodblock print
Legend has it that a carp that makes it to the top will become a dragon

In the month leading up to May 5th, you can find fish flags flying in all sorts of places

In front of Tokyo Tower…

Koi nobori at Tokyo Tower

where this delightfully colorful school…

Koi nobori at Tokyo Tower

…even flies at night

Koi nobori at Tokyo Tower at night

At temples like Nishirai-Daishi…

Koi nobori at Nishiarai Daishi temple

…and Senso-ji, they’re absolutely huge

Koi nobori at Senso-ji temple

Some shopping streets—like this one near Kameido Station—festoon the entire street with carp

Koi nobori at Kameido shopping street

While others like this shop in Kawagoe content themselves with selling them

Koi nobori in a shop in Kawagoe

The carp become art in Roppongi near the 21_21 Design Sight Gallery, each one different

Koi nobori at Roppongi Midtown 21_21 Design Sight

They can be seen flying spontaneously on a kite string in Yoyogi Park

Koi nobori at Yoyogi Park

Or gracing this month’s costume of the Peeing Statue at Hamamatsucho Station

Koi nobori at Hamamatsucho Station

They even become the excuse for a month-long festival out in Tatebayashi (Gunma Prefecture), where over five thousand fish flags flutter over the stretch of river near Tatebayashi Station.

Koi nobori at Tatebayashi

It’s well worth searching them out, because like Japan’s spring flower extravaganzas, they lift even the most jaded spirits with their exuberance.

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly Japanagram newsletter, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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