Children’s Games for the Five Festivals

(Osana asobi go sekku no uchi, 雅遊五節句之内)

Publisher: Wakasa-ya Yoichi

c. 1840


This series shows children playing games that are related to the five festivals, which are Jinjitsu (January 7) Feast of the Seven Herbs or Mankind’s Day; Johshi (March 3) Doll Festival or Girls’ Day; Tango (May 5) Boys’ Day; Tanabata (July 7) Star Festival or Seventh Night; and Choyo (September 9) The Chrysanthemum Festival.  The series is listed as number 129 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).  The prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.  I am grateful to Robert Pryor for assisting with this section.



Title: Tanabata (七夕) Star Festival or Seventh Night on July 7

Description: Girls writing

wishes as poems which are attached to bamboo branches as part of the festival.  Hozuki, lantern plant/ground cherry, can be seen in the foreground, there was a large market selling hozuki at the Senso-ji temple grounds in the days.



Another state of the above print


Another state of the above design


Title: Yayoi (弥生) Girls’ Festival

Description: Girls preparing a festival meal, including clams, a traditional food for Yayoi/Hinamatsuri.  The flowers are peach blossoms which bloom in March, and the festival is also known as Momo no Sekku, Peach festival.


The kimono of the girl on the right is also decorated with peach blossom, as is her hair-pin. The kimono of the girl to the rear is decorated with an ice-crystal snowflake pattern - the daimyo Toshitura Doi had published an edition of illustrations of microscopic snow crystals, Sekka-zusetsu (Sketches of Snow Flowers) in 1839.


Title: Tango (端午) Boys’ Festival

Description: Also known as Shôbu no Sekku, Iris Festival, shôbu can mean both "iris" and "martial spirit".  Boys with heads decorated with iris leaves compete to make the best sound whacking braided bundles of iris leaves. Traditional decorations are shown; indoor banners, carp kites and Chinese style guandao aka seiryuto, blue dragon sword.



Another state of the above design


Title: Kiku no tsuki (菊月) Chrysanthemum Festival

Description: Boys wrestling in front of a chrysanthemum background



A greatly altered state of the above design published 1846-1852


Title: Seiyô (青陽) New Year

Description: Children performing the mikawa manzai New Year’s ritual. Tayu, with the fan in Shinto ritual clothing, sings and dances to the tsuzumi drum accompaniment of Saizo. Behind is the New Year’s kagami mochi cake, decorated with spiny lobster, yuzuriha leaves, and urajiro fern.



Another state of the above design


An additional state

The woodblocks for the above print were reworked in the 2nd month of 1847 to produce this image with the faces of well-known actors.  The print now bears the title Ken no keiko (Ken Exercises) and has the following text:


Sake wa kenzake (sake o tsugu furi o shite)
Iroshina wa (ryôte nite sando katate zutsu de manegu)
Kai ro (kairo no mane o shite) hitohyoko
Mihyokoohyoko (sando tobu koto)
Hebi nuranura
(kubi o furinagara tatsu koto) namekude mairiyashi
Yo / au sore / (sode no shita yori migi no te nite hasami o dashi)
Janajaka janjaka (migi no te o nigiri)
(hidari no to o hirogete kawarigawari ni shite yondo suru koto) janken na
(kodomo no janken o suru koto) basama ni (tsue o tsukite hidari no te o koshi e mawasu koto)Watônai

shikarareta (atama o osaeru koto)
Tora ga (ryôte o tsuki tora no mane o shite) hauhau (sandô hau koto) totetsuru ten (kubi o furu koto) kitsune de kinase (kitsune o suru koto)

Sake should be ken-zake
But there are various methods:
The frog jumps one, two, three,
The snake comes slippery.
Let us try with the slug!
Dingdong dingdong—stone ken!
It was by his old mother,
that Watônai was scolded.
The tiger comes a-crawling
to the sound of the shamisen.
Now come with the fox!


‘Robinson’ refers to listing of the series in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).