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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shichi-Go-San 2013

Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three) is a Japanese festival in honour of girls aged three and seven, and boys aged five. The actual date of Shichi-Go-San is November 15th, but it is not a national holiday in Japan and is usually celebrated on the nearest weekend to the actual date.

Children dress in their finest clothes, typically a Japanese kimono and visit a shrine with their parents. It is a day to pray for the good fortune and healthy growth of children and hope for a successful future.

Why the ages Seven-Five-Three? 

These ages are odd numbers and are considered lucky in East Asian numerology. This year you can expect a lot of young children dressed in kimono at shrines on the weekend of November 16-17. I recommend a visit to a shrine if you want to see this event and it is also a good opportunity for all those photographers out there to capture a wonderful photo.

Traditional Clothing

It is tradition on Shichi-Go-San for children to dress up in traditional Japanese clothing such as a kimino and hakama and visit a shrine to celebrate and be blessed. It is usually the first time for many to wear such traditional clothing and is a popular time for formal pictures to be taken at a professional photo studio. In more recent times, many children are increasingly wearing Western style clothing such as dresses and suits. 

Origins of Shichi-Go-San

The celebration is said to have started during the Heian period (794-1185) when nobles celebrated the growth of their children. Over time, this tradition passed to the samurai class who added a number of their own rituals. Children who up until the age of three were required by Japanese custom to have shaved heads were allowed to grow their hair. Boys of age five could wear a hakama (袴) for the first time, while girls of age seven could tie their kimono with the traditional obi instead of simple cords. The practice became popular among commoners during the Edo period (1603-1868) with families visiting shrines to offer their prayers, and evolved to what it is today during the Meiji era (1868-1912).


After the visit to the shrine, parents usually buy special candy for the children called chitose-ame (longevity candy). Chitose-ame is long, thin, red and white candy. The character for chitose-ame is 千歳飴 and it literally means thousand year candy. Not that it is a thousand years old, but it symbolizes healthy growth and longevity. The candy is shaped like a stick and comes in a bag decorated with cranes and turtles, which both symbolize long life.

Chitose-ame from Gifu Gokoku Shrine

Milky Chitose-ame

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