‘Koinobori‘ on my previous post is the traditional decoration on the ‘Kodomo-no-Hi‘ (Children’s Day/Boy’s Day) on the 5th of May in Japan. Another tradition on the day is that we decorate out house with ‘Shobu (Iris)’. So what is the reason behind this custom?
‘Shobu (菖蒲)’ on ‘Kodomo-no-Hi’
First of all there are two types of ‘Shobu‘. One of them is ‘Hana-Shobu‘. It is Iris which we enjoy the magnificent flower with a striking colour and shape. The other one is medicinal ‘Shobu’ with very scented leaves but with insignificant flowers. They are totally different plants.
It seems like that people started using Shobu for this ceremonial occasion because …
1) The name has the same sound as the word ‘Shobu (尚武)’ which means martial/Samurai spirit.
2) The shape of the very pointy leaves also reminded people of the Samurai sword so they wanted to place it at the entrance in order to get rid of the evil spirits coming into the house. These days people use Hana-Shobu to decorate their houses.
3) Shobu was originally believed to have a power to get rid of evil spirits. Its leaves have a strong scent and used medicinally. In the hope to have good health and a long life people started using the leaves in the bath.
4) Another Japanese word which has the same sound as ‘Shobu’ is ‘勝負’. It means ‘contest/match/game/win-defeat’. Obviously it is important for a Samurai family to win in a match so parents used Shobu for the Boy’s Day decoration by wishing the healthy growth of a boy who would become a great Samurai.
Nowadays people still have ‘Shoubu-yu’ (Bath with Shobu leaves) on the Kodomo-no-Hi. As well as its aromatherapy function it is known to have certain oils that are good for reducing backache and nerve pain.
My sweet ‘Shobu /Iris’
However, as I’m in London, I did not decorate the house with Iris, or have a bath with Shobu leaves. Instead I made Japanese sweet in the shape of an Iris flower and ate them! I wonder if that will bring me good health?
It is made of ‘Nerikiri‘ with ‘Shiro-An (White bean paste)’ as the centre. It is free from Gluten, Egg, Dairy and Oil.
This Shobu/Iris sweet is also on a menu in the Cafe section of the Kimono Shop Wasoukan (Notting Hill, London) during May. If you go there to have this sweet I hope you will think about why I selected ‘Shobu/Iris’ sweet for May.
Happy healthy May to everyone! 🙂