Children’s Day in Japan – A Documentary Story

Children’s Day in Japan

Living here in Japan has given us many opportunities to experience the Japanese culture. It is one like I have never experienced. It’s full of celebrations, family, history and colors. The older generation is sure to pass down traditions and family history to their children and grandchildren. Every month there is some traditional festivals. May’s celebration was Children’s Day.

Children’s Day is a Japanese national holiday that takes place annually on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month and is part of the Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness. On children’s day, they string these beautifully colored carp fish flags across the rivers.
Parents bring their children to see them and tell them the significance of the flags. Families raise the carp-shaped koi nob Ori flags (carp because of the Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon, and the way the flags blow in the wind looks like they are swimming), with one carp for the father, one for the mother, and one carp for each child (traditionally each son). These flags are a beautiful sight to see.

This year a friend and I took our sons to see the carp flags and to photograph them. We went to a bigger river near where we live. It had been raining the night before, and the puddles were everywhere. The boys were acting like boys, climbing,  jumping, splashing and running. They were amazed by not only the fish but also by these puddles. Their reflections and the movement they could make by poking a finger in the water or stomping their foot in the water.

Tip for photographers:

When documenting these moments look for the details, for the patterns and the significance in the moment. Most of these photographs were taken with my 35 mm 1.4L lens, but I also pulled out my lens baby composer and edge 80 optic. While I love my prime lenses, I have been wanting to broaden my horizons and really learn my lensbaby. The edge 80 optic is my favorite. It gives a beautiful creamy blur with a slice of focus. It helps me tell a story. Not only that, but it is challenging and makes you work for your photograph. I love a challenge.  I set my aperture on the edge 80 first. Then tilt the lensbaby in the direction I want my slice of focus and then focus the lens and take the photo. Move the lens around and watch where your focus is landing. Play with it some and practice. You’ll come out with some pretty amazing photos and some well.. practice photos. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III.








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Guest post images and writing from Kristi James

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