The annual display of large carp-shaped windsocks called Koinobori blowing atop many homes is a popular custom in Hawaii during the weeks leading up to Boy’s Day on May 5th.
Around this time of year, customers purchase traditional Musha Ningyo dolls in glass cases, iron Kabuto warrior helmets, bow and arrow sets and Japanese clothing called jinbei as keepsake gifts for boys. But individual or sets of koinobori sell the most every year, says Company President Robert Iida. “I guess because it’s the most attractive.” He turned 86 a couple days ago and has been managing the family store for more than half a century.
In Japanese folklore, the carp symbolizes energy and perseverance to swim vigorously up rapid streams and waterfalls. Its courage and fierce determination are traits families hope will be instilled in their boys. Koinobori are flown outside homes to ensure their sons will grow strong and healthy to overcome life’s challenges.
Iida’s sells 3 sizes of koi sets. Each comes with a gold windmill Yaguruma; battle streamer Fukinagashi; black, red and blue koi in graduated lengths; and a telescopic or collapsible aluminum pole. The 1 meter (or 39″) sells for $187, the 1.5 meter for $265 and the 2 meter (79″) for $315. The length refers to the longest streamer in the set, the black carp.
Most people recognize the black carp “Magoi” as the father, the red carp “Higoi” the mother and the blue carp the eldest or only son in the family. Additional carp can be attached to represent the other children. Customers can also select individual koi made in China or Japan in assorted colors and lengths, which range from 12 inches to more than 16 feet.
Other people perceive several carp on display to represent the number of children or boys in the family. Some put up the black carp for the older boy and the red carp for the younger boy, the way Iida fondly remembers growing up.
At the age of 3, he recalls, “I was excited when Papa-Ojiichan (his father Koichi Iida) put up koi” for him and his older brother, Richard, outside their home in Pauoa. The two grew up with 5 older sisters, who all ate ozoni soup to celebrate the special occasion.
Brian and Aileen Brennan and their 2 sons started flying koi after moving out from a condo and into a house in Manoa a couple of years ago. They normally fly koi out on their lanai for about a month, within 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after May 5th.
“We display our koinobori to celebrate our beloved little boys and as good luck, as we wish for Kainoa and Kenji to grow into healthy, happy and spirited yet well-mannered adults,” Aileen said. Kainoa is 6 and his younger brother, Kenji, is 3 years old.
Eating mochi and exchanging little gifts with neighbors also add to the fun, she said.