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Nov 15

Shichi-go-san celebrated today in Japan

An important day of celebration

Shichi-go-san is a festival celebrated by parents on the 15th of November in Japan, to mark the growth of their children as they turn seven, five, and three years of age.

Shichi-go-san literally means seven, five, and three. These ages are considered critical in a child’s life. Particularly, at the age of seven, a young girl celebrates wearing her first obi, while at the age of five a young boy celebrates wearing his first hakama pants in public. The age of three marks the first time when both boys and girls are allowed to let their hair grow.

The festival is said to have started in the Heian period (794-1185) where the nobles celebrated the growth of their children on a lucky day in November. The festival was subsequently set on the 15th of that month during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was said to be celebrating the growth of his son, Tokumatsu, on that day.

By the Edo period (1603-1868) this practice spread to commoners, who began visiting shrines to have prayers offered by priests. The shichi-go-san custom followed today evolved in the Meiji era (1868-1912). November 15 was chosen because it was considered one of the most auspicious days of the year in the Japanese almanac. Since the day is not a national holiday, most families pay their shichi-go-san respects on the weekend just before or after the actual day.

Today parents celebrate shichi-go-san as their boys turn three and five, and as their girls turn three and seven. The boys don haori jackets and hakama trousers, while the girls would wear a special ceremonial kimono when making their shrine visit.

Following the visit to the shrine, parents buy chitose-ame (thousand year candy) for their children. The candy is shaped like a stick and comes in a bag that carries illustrations of cranes and turtles–two animals that traditionally symbolise longevity in Japan. The candy and the bag are expressions of parents’ wish that their children lead long and prosperous lives.

In the Fly Catcher Boy story, shichi-go-san is prominently featured. Kenji, neko, and Obaa-chan visit the shrine to celebrate Sumiko’s 7th year, admire her first obi, and eat traditional foods.

1 comment

  1. rebecca

    Good question, Lois. Children’s Day is celebrated on May 5th in Japan. Shichi-go-san is a Shinto ceremony marking three important ages in a child’s life–7, 5, and 3. They’re two separate celebrations! Thanks for asking!

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