In Part 10 of this series, our Account Rep. Naomi shares information about Shichi-Go-San
Shichi-Go-San literally means Seven-Five-Three. Held on November 15 (or the weekend closest to this day), Shichi-Go-San is a festival and traditional rite of passage for children in Japan.1 It is observed as a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children. In most regions around the country, boys aged three and five, and girls aged five and seven, visit a Shinto shrine with their parents.2
It is believed that the Shichi-Go-San festival began during the Heian period (794-1185) where nobles celebrated the growth of their children on a lucky day in November.1 Up until the Edo period (1603-1868), aristocratic and samurai families celebrated the growth of their children in the following ways2:
1) Three year-old boys and girls were allowed to grow out their hair instead of keeping it shaved
2) Five year-old boys wore hakama3 for the first time in public
3) Seven year-old girls wore an obi sash to tie their kimonos instead of cords
Since the Meiji period (1868-1912), the practice of celebrating Shichi-Go-San has generally remained the same. The hair ritual for three-year-old children no longer applies, but the others regarding traditional clothing are still observed.1 Today, it is common for children to dress up in western-style clothing rather than traditional outfits.
Following the visit to the shrine, parents buy chitose-ame for their children. Chitose literally means a thousand years and ame means candy; thus, “thousand-year candy”. The candy is stick-shaped and they are placed inside a bag with illustrations of cranes and turtles – both symbolic of long life. The candy expresses the parents’ wish for their children to have long and prosperous lives.2