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Shichi-go-san - 7-5-3 Festival

        Shichi Go San means 7, 5, 3: Girls of age three and seven and boys of age three and five celebrated on this day. It occurs on November 15 (or in some places the closest weekend). Families with children of these ages will visit a Shinto shrine with the children elaborately dressed in traditional costume. Prayers will be said for their continued health and growth. 

        Chitose Ame, or thousand year candy, is given to children on Shichi-Go-San. Chitose ame is a long, thin, red and white candy, said to stand for healthy growth and long life. It is given in a bag decorated with a crane and a turtle, both of while represent long life in Japan.

        The ceremonies date back to ancient Japan and have different meanings based on sex and age. The first is kamioki; in ancient times children under the age of three had shaved heads; after kamioki 3 they were allowed to grow out their hair. The hair ritual has been discarded in modern culture, but for both boys and girls it often now is the first time they visit a shrine. It was also at the age of 3 that families officially registered their children, since the infant mortality rate was so high it was not required prior to that age (again different in modern times).  Boys of age five could wear hakama for the first time, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi.[2] By the Meiji Period, the practice was adopted amongst commoners as well, and included the modern ritual of visiting a shrine to drive out evil spirits and wish for a long healthy life. The second ceremony is hakamagi-no-gi, which is the ceremony when five year old boys will first wear hakama; a part of Japanese traditional formal wear.
Obitoki-no-gi it the third ceremony, for seven year old girls. They are now allowed to wear and obi with their kimono rather than a plain cord to hold it in place. The third ceremony,, is held for seven-year-old girls, and exhibits the first time the girls wear "obi" (a broad sash for the kimono) instead of a string.

        Much of the ceremonial meanings have slipped from the day, but it is still a time when parents of children of these ages to take them to shrines to offer thanks and pray for the future of their children. They are still considered to be important age markers, and it's often a time for photos in formal clothes to be taken. Each marks moving on to a new step in their childhoods.

With thanks to Japan National Tourism Organization; Japan Visitor

Last updated 1/2014 © 1998 - 2014 G. Thompson/PuffinStuff, Inc.