Today (May 5th) is Children’s Day in Japan, and that means today’s Word of the Day is 鯉幟 (koinobori). 鯉 (koi) means “carp” and 幟 (nobori) means something like “flag”, so 鯉幟 (koinobori) translates into English as “carp streamer“.
Japanese families (who have boys) put these carp streamers up to celebrate boys. My wife and I had a son last year, so we got some.
At the top of the pole are 矢車 (yaguruma). 矢 means “arrow” and 車 means “car” or “wheel”. If you look closely, you will see that the wheels are spoked with arrows, hence 矢車. The fletching of the arrow-spokes catches the wind and makes the wheels turn.
The koinobori are sold in sets of four. At the top is a plain old wind sock and beneath it are three carp windsocks. The black carp is the father, the red is the mother and the blue one is the boy. A koinobori set can cost anything from 10,000 yen (US$100) to 60,000 yen (US$600). Ours was 40,000 yen and some change. Not cheap by any means, but you only have to buy them once, you use them year after year, and up close they are actually pretty freaking cool.
You hang your koinobori at the beginning of May, and then take them down on June 5th, one month after Children’s Day. Our koinobori are hung off of our balcony, and as you can see, the boy likes it!