DIY Cheapo: Koi Nobori (Carp Streamers)



One of the many things we love about Japan is the plethora of fun holidays and festivals. Kodomo No Hi (Children’s Day), which falls on May 5th, is an awesome national holiday during Golden Week that celebrates children’s personalities and happiness. If you’re in Japan, you’ll notice a lot of koi fish (carp) decorations around town, as well as stickers and toys in the stores and 100 yen shops. Here we show you how to make simple versions of your own.

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Koi nobori are large carp streamers that are hung specifically for young boys. There are typically three fish together – the largest represents the father, the next the mother, and the smallest the son. Families with sons either buy or make their koi nobori and hang them up around Kodomo No Hi. Even if you don’t have a son in your household, you can most definitely hang koi nobori if you want to – and why wouldn’t you?

To make your own koi nobori, all you need are some basic crafting items, which are all available at your local 100 yen shop – so that means your banner will be unique and way cheaper than a store-bought decoration! I made my koi nobori alongside my 3-year-old niece and she had a blast, so this project is great to do with kids too.

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What you will need:

  • Large sheets of colorful craft paper
  • Patterned paper (I used origami paper)
  • 3 plastic bottle caps
  • String
  • Stick
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue
  • Stapler
  • Black marker
  • Scissors

First, make the bodies of your fish by selecting three sheets of the large craft paper. You will need one sheet for each fish, so you can do all different colors, or all the same – it’s up to you. Once you have the paper selected, take one of the sheets and roll it width-wise into itself and staple it so that you have a large tube. Do this with the remaining two sheets, making each smaller than the last so that you end up with one large, one medium, and one small tube. In one end of each tube, cut a V shape to make the tail of the fish. Set them aside.

Step 1
Step 1
Step 2

Make the scales of the fish by cutting 1-inch circles out of the patterned paper. I used three different patterns of traditional origami paper. The number of scales you need varies on how many you want to put on, so I would start by cutting around 20-30 to start with. You can always cut more if you run out.

Next, use the black marker to color in the center of your bottle caps to create eyes. Set them aside.

Step 3

Now that you have everything prepared, you can start decorating your fish. Simply glue the “scales” in an overlapping pattern until you have the amount that you want on each fish. I did my fish by only decorating one side since you only see the one side when it is hung, but you can decorate both sides if you are so inclined!

Step 4
Step 4

Using the black marker, make a border at the edge of each fish’s mouth. This is optional, but it’s a detail that is traditional for koi nobori.

Step 5
Step 5

With hot glue, glue the bottle caps where the eyes should be on the fish. Since the fish are one-sided, you only need one cap per fish.

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Cut three pieces of string, about 5 inches longer than you want the fish to hang. Punch a hole in the top of each fish’s mouth and tie one end of each string through it.  Finally, tie the strings to the stick, with the biggest fish at the top and the smallest at the bottom.

Step 6
Step 6
Step 7
Step 7

There you have it – a fun and festive decoration to celebrate Kodomo No Hi. I like to display mine in a vase or leaning against the wall on a shelf … outside probably isn’t the best idea since these cheapo carp are paper!

Done and ready to hang.


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