The fifth day of the fifth month is the Boys’ Festival. Then they are selling bows and arrows and other toy weapons everywhere. Everywhere they hang out great paper fishes, shaped like carp, and brightly painted. These are hung to tall bamboo poles of which there is one set in front of every house where they have a boy in the family. One fish is hung for each boy, and it is a gay sight to see the hundreds of bright fish waving and tossing in the wind. The reason 92why the carp is represented is because it swims up the river against the current; so it is hoped “the sturdy boy, overcoming all obstacles, will make his way in the world and rise to fame and fortune.”
The man who sells the gold-fish, with fan-like tails as long as their bodies, has also turtles. These boys at last settle that of all the pretty things they have seen they would best like to spend their money on a young turtle. For their pet rabbits and mice died, but turtles, they say, are painted on fans and screens and boxes because turtles live for ten thousand years.
The tops the lads are playing with in this picture are not quite the same shape as our tops, but they spin very well. Some men are so clever at making spinning-tops run along strings, throwing them up into the air and catching them with a tobacco-pipe, that they earn a living by exhibiting their skill.
Some of the tops are formed of short pieces of bamboo with a wooden peg put through them, and the hole cut in the side makes them have a fine hum as the air rushes in whilst they spin.
In the picture are two boys who are fond of music. One has a flute, which is made of bamboo wood. These flutes are easy to make, as bamboo wood grows hollow, with cross divisions at intervals. If you cut a piece with a division forming one end you need only make the outside holes in order to finish your flute.
The child sitting down has a drum. His drum and the paper lanterns hanging up have painted on them an ornament which is also the crest of the house of "Arima." If these boys belong to this family they wear the same crest embroidered on the centre of the backs of their coats.
The two little boys are playing at snowball. These lads enjoy a fall of snow, and still better than snowballing they like making a snowman with a charcoal ball for each eye and a streak of charcoal for his mouth. The shoes which they usually wear out of doors are better for a snowy day than your boots, for their feet do not sink into the snow, unless it is deep. These shoes are of wood, and make a boy seem to be about three inches taller than he really is. The shoe, you see, has not laces or buttons, but is kept on the foot by that thong which passes between the first and second toe. The thong is made of grass, and covered with strong paper, or with white or colored calico. The boy in the check dress wears his shoes without socks, but you see the other boy has socks on.
After the heavy autumn rains have filled the roads with big puddles, it is great fun, this boy thinks, to walk about on stilts. His stilts are of bamboo wood, and he calls them "Heron-legs," after the long-legged snowy herons that strut about in the wet rice-fields. When he struts about on them, he wedges the upright between his big and second toe as if the stilt was like his shoes. He has a good view of his two friends who are wrestling, and probably making hideous noises like wild animals as they try to throw one another.