Sunday, May 2, 2010

children's day festival

When we make etegami, we try to reflect the season. Maybe that's one reason why we're sticklers for drawing from observation rather than our imagination. You wouldn't normally draw a watermelon in January, or a tangerine in July, because that would be out of their season.

Another way to mark the seasons is to draw subjects that reflect certain holidays of the year. It so happens that Japan is in the middle of Golden Week, a series of holidays beginning on April 29 and ending on May 5. May 5 is Children's Day (formerly known as Boy's Day) and we traditionally eat a sweet called Kashiwa Mochi on that day. It's a simple sweet consisting of a ball of sweet bean paste enclosed inside mochi (made from rice flour), and then wrapped in an oak leaf. I posted a recipe for this sweet, along with an explanation of the symbolism, on my wagashi (Japanese confections) blog if you'd like to take a look.

Now, you may remember that last year I celebrated Children's Day by drawing a carp. More specifically, a Koi-nobori, or carp-shaped streamer like those which are flown from flag poles all over Japan at this time of year. They represent the parents' prayers and wishes that their children will grow up to be strong against adversity, like the carp is said to swim against the current.

It always adds something to an etegami if you can find a postage stamp that represents the same season as the drawing. I had a postage stamp left over from last year that depicted a Koi-nobori, and even though it's in a denomination that is more than the required postage for a postcard, I decided to use it for this year's Children's Day card. So I'm feeling rather pleased with myself.

The attached etegami depicting Kashiwa Mochi is accompanied by words which translate roughly to mean "My thoughts are drawn to my son who is far away." May you be able to celebrate Children's Day with your children (or your parents) this week, and if that is not possible, may your thoughts be for one another.


  1. What a nice drawing you made. Strangely to say that May 5 is the day we celebrate Liberation Day ( we were liberated in 1945 around May) So we do have a celebration but another kind then you have :)

    The drawing I made you is on its way, hopy you receive it soon.


  2. Yes, May 5 seems to commemorate many different things in many different parts of the world. Interesting, isn't it? I look forward to receiving your drawing!

  3. You don't need talent to draw Etegami. That's one of the great things about this form of art. (But thank you for the compliment.)

  4. I saw your topic at the postcrossing forum and I just came to say your works are amazing!