March 23, 2013


Shichi-go-san is Japanese for "seven-five-three," and the shichi-go-san festival is a Japanese festival honoring the good health and growth of all three-year-old girls and boys, five-year-old boys, and seven-year-old girls. The festival takes place on November 15th and is marked by families with seven, five, and three-year-olds visiting shrines. Odd numbers are considered lucky, 15 is the sum of 7, 5, and 3, and November 15th is considered the most auspicious date of the Japanese calendar. Since this date is not a national holiday, people usually visit the shrine on the nearest weekend.

During the Heian period (794-1185,) the child mortality rate was high in Japan. During this time period, members of the aristocratic class and the samurai class began having celebrations for children who lived to be three, five, and seven, which, being odd numbers, were considered lucky ages. By the Edo Period (1603-1868,) commoners had shichi-go-san celebrations for their children as well.

Three, five, and seven are all milestone ages for Japanese children. During the samurai era, children had their heads shaved until they reached the age of three. A child's first shichi-go-san after his or third birthday marked the first time he or she could grow hair and was referred to as kamioki, which means "putting on hair." A boy could start wearing hakama, formal Japanese pants, at age five, and his first shichi-go-san after his fifth birthday was called hakamagi-no-gi. Upon turning seven, a girl could tie her kimono with obi (a traditional sash) rather than strings, and her first shichi-go-san was called obitoki-no-gi.

Kamioki is no longer observed, and some families dress their children in Western-style suits and dresses rather than having hakamagi-no-gi and obitoki-no-gi, but shichi-go-san is still a very meaningful celebration for the Japanese. Some children have photo sessions taken for their shichi-go-san. Girls get their hair and makeup done. On the big day, the children's families visit the shrine and the kan-nushi (Shinto priest) blesses the children and recites a long prayer to a Shinto god asking for protection of the children. The family members participate in the prayer ceremony as well. After the ceremony, the priest gives the children omamori, which are good luck charms, according to

Children on their way to the shrine for shichi-go-san: credits to
 After visiting the shrine, parents buy their children chitose-ame, which means "thousand years candy." Chitose-ame are long red and white sticks. Red and white are lucky colors, and long sticks symbolize long life. The candy sticks are carried in bags decorated with pictures of turtles and cranes, two long-living animals that also represent long life.

Birthday shoutouts to Mattie, Cy, and Caitlin

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I loved the photo of the children you showed in this post. Did you learn how that "thousand years candy" was made and what flavor it is?