The Seven-Five-Three Festival
(on or around November 15th)

●七五三 Shichi-Go-San; the Seven-Five-Three-Festival
●祝い celebration
●儀式 ceremony;(宗教的)ritual;(社会的・宗教的)function
●健康 health
●成長 growth
●長寿 longevity
●神社 shrine
●神主;神官 (Shinto) priest
●寺 temple
●僧侶 (Buddhist) priest
●教会 church
●神父(カトリック・正教会) priest
●牧師(プロテスタント) minister
●記念写真 memorial picture
●晴れ着 best clothes; Sunday best
●千歳飴 Chitose-ame; 1000-year candy

Shichi-Go-San (literally 7-5-3) is usually a celebration for 7-year-old girls, 5-year-old boys, and 3-year-old boys and girls.

The ages of 7, 5 and 3, said to have been chosen as odd numbers, are considered auspicious in Japanese numerology.

The age at which boys and girls participate and the way they are celebrated sometimes vary by region.

Traditionally, girls are dressed in beautiful kimono (a Japanese traditional robe-style costume) and obi (a sash), and boys are dressed in haori (a Japanese traditional half coat) and hakama (a pair of Japanese traditional skirt-like pants).

Both girls and boys wear white tabi (a pair of Japanese toe-divided socks) and zori (a pair of Japanese sandals with a thong).

In some cases, children are dressed up in formal western clothes such as gorgeous dresses or tuxedos.

On or around November 15th, children are taken to shrines, usually their local ones, by their parents.

Priests hold a Shinto purification ceremony and read out the children’s names to the gods.

Children and parents thank the gods for the children’s healthy and happy growth and pray for their continuous protection.

These days, Shichi-Go-San ceremonies are held even in temples and churches.

Children are happy to receive Chitose-ame, which means 1000-year candy.

Chitose-ame is red and white stick candy made from rice powder and malt sugar.

The candy is made to represent the growth and longevity of children.

The candy is presented in colorful good luck paper bags, which are decorated with drawings of cranes, turtles, pine trees, flowers, and other illustrations.

The origin of chitose-ame is said to be the candies sold by Shichibei in front of the Senso-ji Temple in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867).

Memorial pictures and videos are taken of the children.

Many photo studios offer special Shichi-Go-San packages including costume rentals, dressing, hairstyling, makeup and photography.

Originally, the custom of Shichi-Go-San was strictly for the aristocracy and the warrior classes during the Heian period (794-1191).

In those days, three-year-old girls had a ceremony to mark the beginning of them growing their hair long.

Five-year-old boys had a ceremony to mark their first time wearing Hakama.

Seven-year-old girls had a ceremony to mark their first time tying a Kimono with an Obi.

During the Edo period, Shichi-Go-San gradually became a popular event among the townspeople as well.

The date is said to derive from the historical fact that a ceremony was held for Tokumatsu or the first son of Tsunayoshi, the 5th Shogun of the Tokugawa clan, for his growth on November 15th.

The present-day customs of Shichi-Go-San became popular during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

(Please see “My Seven-Five-Three Festival Experience” for further information.)

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