700 Koinobori Float Through the Sky of Disaster-affected Area

Every year on kodomo no hi, a Japanese national holiday called Children's Day, colorful koinobori are raised all over the country. They are wind socks in the shape of koi fish and therefore called carp streamers. NHK, Japan's national public broadcaster, reported on a powerful story related to kodomo no hi and the koinobori, which we translated for you in this blog post.

700 koinobori float through the sky of 3/11 disaster-affected area


Koinobori Carp Streamers -- Photo from Flickr cc lasta29
On Children's Day on May 5 the sky above Miyagi prefecture's city of Higashimatsushima was filled with over 700 carp streamers dedicated to the children lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake.
This “Blue Koinobori Project” is held every year by local university student Kento Ito (22), whose 5-year-old brother died in the earthquake disaster 4 years ago. He says he wants his little brother to be able to see his favorite blue carp streamers from heaven each year, and people send them to him from all over the country.
Locals and volunteers raise the carp streamers close to Ito's home's ruin in the area of Omagarihama in Higashimatsushima. Last year they counted just over 600 streamers, but with this year's new arrivals they surpassed the 700 mark.
Inside the streamers, the people sending them write their thoughts and wishes for the disaster-stricken area, like “Hope” and “You can do it, Tohoku!”, and when the koinobori rise into the sky and float on the wind all participants break out in huge applause.
A 6th-grader joining the event from Sendai told us, “We must not forget about this disaster. And if another one should hit again, we must do all we can to minimize the damage.”
Ito stated: “Starting with me and my little brother, we are all grieving for the children we lost in the disaster, but I believe they are happy to see us, who are still alive, raising the koinobori with smiling faces.”
Because reconstruction has started in Omagarihama, this year will be Ito's last koinobori event here, but he is planning to keep the tradition alive by finding other spots to raise the carp streamers from next year on.
Kento Ito's thoughts and wishes

The one who started raising the blue carp streamers is Kento Ito (22), a university student living in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi prefecture. In the Great East Japan Earthquake's tsunami, Ito lost his 5-year-old brother Ritsu, as well as his mother and grandmother. The four of them were just escaping from the tsunami.
In all of Higashimatsushima, a total of 1100 people lost their lives, 24 are still missing. The residential area of Omagarihama was all but carried away by the tsunami.
After Ritsu's dead body was found Ito discovered a three meter long dirt-covered blue carp streamer close to his home, which had been entirely destroyed by the tsunami.
Ito thought, “I want to show this carp streamer to my little brother, who loved the blue koinobori. In the same way, I want to console the spirits of all the other children lost in the disaster,” and the same year called upon the entire country to send him blue carp streamers. That year he collected 204 streamers, but they keep on coming from all over the country, and this year exceeded 700.
In addition to the koinobori, because little Ritsu is said to have been good at playing the Taiko drum, every year while the carp streamers rise into the sky a powerful Taiko performance is held, so it may reach Ritsu high up in heaven.
Ito has just started his 4th year at university and will be graduating next year in spring. After his graduation, he plans to work for the community and help in reviving the area.
For more information on the "Blue Koinobori Project" visit their official website and their Facebook page (both in Japanese).


Jennifer Weiss