Japanese Language Coordinator
May 30, 2018
子供の笑顔 (Kodomo no Egao) Children's Smile/Senyuman Anak-Anak (Culture & Language: Japanese) - The Story
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Good Day, Language Enthusiasts!

Did you know that Japanese people celebrate several festivals for their children? John F. Kennedy once said, “Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” In the spirit of Japanese Children's Day held on 5 May, Polyglot Indonesia Jakarta Chapter arranged a meetup titled 子供の笑顔 (Kodomo no Egao) Children's Smile/Senyuman Anak-Anak (Culture & Language: Japanese) on Sunday, 6 May 2018. In this meetup, which was attended by 66 participants, our Japanese language coordinator team elaborated several facts regarding the celebration of three Japanese children festivals: Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) (Doll Festival, also known as Girl's Day), Kodomo no Hi (子供の日) (Children's Day), and 7-5-3 (七五三) (Shichi-Go-San).

The first children's festival presented was Hinamatsuri. It is a festival for girls held on 3 March every year. The festival is a special event for families to celebrate their young daughters and pray for their success and happiness. When a girl is born, her parents or grandparents will give her a set of hina-ningyō (雛人形) (hina dolls) as a present or hand it down from the previous generation. The most iconic image of this festival is the display of hina-ningyō set in Heian Era imperial clothing. Even though Hinamatsuri is one of Go-Sekku (五節句) (Five Seasonal Festivals) in Japan, it is not a national holiday.

The next one is Kodomo no Hi, which is held on May 5 every year. Since ancient time, it is originally a day of celebration for boys known as Tango no Sekku (端午の節句). In the 40s, the Japanese government decreed this day to be renamed as Kodomo no Hiand designated it as national holiday to celebrate the happiness of children, both girls and boys, and to express gratitude towards the mothers. The icon of Kodomo no Hi is the colourful carp streamers raised on a pole outside of houses or public buildings, called koinobori (鯉のぼり) (climbing carp). According to an ancient Chinese legend, this carp swims upstream furiously on flowing river and then morphes into a dragon when it reaches its destination. Other than koinobori, families will display a go-getsu ningyō (五月人形) (warrior dolls), these are dolls in the form of warrior with armor and helmet or mythological strongman figure like Kintarō or Momotarō. Through these dolls, families hope that their children can grow up healthy and strong to protect themselves.

The last festival presented was Shichi-Go-San. It is a festival celebrated specifically for three year old boys and girls, five year old boys, and seven yearsl old girls. In this festival, parents will celebrate it by dressing their children in kimono (着物) for girls and hakama (袴) for boys and taking their kids in that specific age to jinja (神社) (Shinto shrine) for a prayer so that their children will grow up healthy.

After the presentation, as usual, participants were given time to discuss about the existing children festivals in each country from which their chosen language originated from. In this session, participants were divided into two English Tables, Spanish Table, German Table, Korean Table, Mandarin Chinese Table, and Japanese Table. During presentation session that came after the discussion, we found out that China and Korea have similar festivals to Japan and that Korea celebrates Children's Day on 5 May also. Other countries presented did not have any specific children celebration.

The last session is a short basic Japanese lesson that might be useful during a trip to Japan. Even though it was hard for participants who were not familiar with Japanese, the response was very enthusiastic. Before the meetup finished, the Japanese coordinator team prepared a game called fukuwarai (福笑い) (lucky laugh). It is a game that is usually played during Lunar New Year. We played a game of jankenpon (じゃん拳ぽん) to determine which table could play. Players from the winning tables (Korean, Spanish, and English 1 Table) were given an outline of a face with no features. The objective of the game is to place paper cutouts in the shape of the eyes, nose, and mouth on the face. The player was blindfolded and has to follow the instruction given by his/her tablemate.

Special thanks to Akademie Café for the meetup venue! Hope to see you again on another Polyglot Indonesia Jakarta Chapter's special meetup! (For the photo documentation, please check our Facebook fanpage album)

About the author

Tika was born and raised in Semarang, Central Java. According to her friends, she is a friendly, passionate, and trustworthy person. Loves to watch movies, listen to music, and cook. She has a big interest on learning foreign language since she was in kindergarten. After graduated from Japanese Studies, Dian Nuswantoro University, Semarang, she moved to Cikarang and currently works as secretary / interpreter in a Japanese company in since February 2015. Her motto is “You will never know until you try”.

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