12 Days of Japanese Festivities – Day 10: Shichi-Go-San

In Part 10 of this series, our Account Rep. Naomi shares information about Shichi-Go-San

Shichi-Go-San literally means Seven-Five-ThreeHeld 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

 

Information Sources:

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shichi-Go-San 

2 http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/november/shichigosan.html

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakama