Life Through Seasons in Japan - Motherhood & Parenting in Japan

Hatsu Sekku — Momo no Sekku and Tango no Sekku

Last Updated on 2024-01-08 by Teni

This post is all about Hatsu Sekku — Momo no Sekku and Tango no Sekku — celebrations for infants deeply rooted in Japan’s Heian imperial court.

What Is Hatsu Sekku?

To start, we need to look at the Japanese language and brush up on some history. Hatsu (初) means first while sekku (節句) are one of five annual ceremonies of the Japanese imperial court. Most of these celebrations have the roots in China and came to Japan during the Nara Period.

In the Heian period (8th-12th century) sekku caught on — probably because they were an excuse to show off one’s fabulous wardrobe and upstage others in the imperial court.

The 5 Sekku

Some sekku are still celebrated by the public today. You might even be familiar with a few:

1. January 7:  Nanakusa no Sekku (七草の節句), celebrating the Japanese New Year.

2. March 3: Momo no sekku (桃の節句) or Girls’ Day

3. May 5: Tango no sekku (端午の節句) or Boys’ Day

4. July 7: Tanabata (七夕), the day on which crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi meet

5. September 9: Kiku no Sekku (菊の節句), Chrysanthemum Festival 

What’s the Difference Between Hatsu Sekku, Hina Matsuri and Kodomo no Hi?

Nothing at all.

I was a bit confused about hastu sekku/momo no sekku because it’s on March 3, which is Hina Matsuri (雛祭り or Girls’ Day). The same with May 5 being Tango no Sekku and Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日、which was Boys’ Day ages ago).

How could March 3 be my girl’s “first” sekku if she was born in February and Girls’ Day is in March?

Here’s the deal:

Infant girls who are haya umare (早生まれ, born in January, February, or March) traditionally celebrate their hatsu sekku AKA momo no sekku (Hina Matsuri) the following year.

Likewise, boys born in March, April or May celebrate their hatsu sekku AKA tango no sekku (Kodomo no Hi/Boy’s Day) the following year.

What Do You Do For Hatsu Sekku?

Decorate the house, dress up the baby, eat traditional sweets, maybe go to a shrine and of course take lots of pictures for Instagram family and friends.

Momo No Sekku (Hina Matsuri)

You’ll see temari (手毬), decorative ornamental balls made from kimono scraps. The grandest display is of hina ningyo (雛人形), dolls that represent members of the Japanese imperial court.

There are several days in February when you display hina dolls but usually it’s sometime between February 3 and the middle of February.

The most displays ones have seven tiers (壇、dan) with 49 dolls (7 is a lucky number).

Available on Amazon Japan

Practically no one nowadays has space/time to devote to such a huge display. Typically you’ll see only the single tiered display.

The male and female dolls are dairi-bina. Odairi-sama (御内裏様, emperor) and Ohina-sama (御雛様, empress).

Available on Amazon Japan

To clarify, these dolls aren’t for playing! They’re purely ornamental with the purpose of protecting the daughter of the household from danger and physical ailments. The idea is that the dolls will absorb the evil and calamity. Back in the day, the dolls were made from wood and scraps, then thrown down river when Momo no sekku was all over.

Here’s another fun fact: the dolls can go up before March 3, but they must be taken down at the end of the day or your daughter might never get married! #patriarchy

Tango No Sekku (Kodomo No Hi/Boy’s Day)

The most commonly seen display are carp streamers (鯉のぼり, koi nobori). The sizes and colors represent members of the family (mom, dad, son and so on).

Carp streamers go up early April. You’ll see them in front of houses but several cities in Japan are known for their large scale displays.

Just like with hina dolls, little boys also get their own traditional items display at home. These go up around March 20/Spring Equinox and come down after Boys’ Day on May 5.

Samurai helmet

兜 | kabuto

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Samurai doll

五月人形 | gogatsu ningyou or 武者人形| musha ningyou

Available on Amazon Japan

Carp streamers

鯉のぼり | koi nobori

Available on Amazon Japan

For more on Japanese celebrations, I recommend this book, Japanese Traditions: Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms and Matsuri: A Year of Seasonal Japanese Festivities:

Available on Amazon & Amazon Japan

Hatsu Sekku — Momo no Sekku and Tango no Sekku

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