Boys’ Day Banner
Cotton (homespun)
Paste resist, hand painted with pigments

May 5 is now called Children’s Day, but before this very recent change it was called Boys’ Day. Boys’ Day was traditionally celebrated by the raising of masculine-themed banners – one banner for each male in the household. These were meant to encourage boys to live up to traditional male virtues, following the examples on the banners. Old woodblock prints show towns festooned with banners as Boys’ Day approached. (See Hiroshige print below depicting carp streamers flying in celebration of Boys’ Day in Suidobashi, now part of central Tokyo.)

This banner would originally have had cotton loops sewn at intervals along the side so it could be hoisted onto a pole. It’s likely that this banner was originally much longer, and suffered damage. Clearly it was treasured by someone who thought enough of it even in its incomplete state to take it to a professional scroll maker, who preserved it with a washi backing so it could still be hung inside the home, if not outside.