Shichi-go-san (she-chee go sawn) is a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children held on the 15th of November (a date that is believed to be a lucky day of the year). Shichi-go-san literally means seven, five, three (in Japanese); in most regions of Japan, boys and girls aged three, boys aged five, and girls aged seven visit a Shinto shrine with their parents. Most girls wear kimonos when making their Shichi-go-san visit, while boys wear haori jackets and hakama trousers, for the celebration.
What is Shinto?
Shinto is a very old religion that many people in Japan still follow. The Shinto divine deities (kami) are found mostly in nature, such as in mountains, rivers, and the sky. The kami protect the Japanese people and guard the health of their children.
Shichi-go-san and Shinto
Shinto religion believe that a child age of three, five, and seven are important times of growth and health. They also believe that odd numbers, especially three, five, and seven, are lucky numbers. So children who live past these ages are thought to be lucky.
Shichi-go-san is all about three different ceremonies that celebrated important times in a child’s life:
Kamioki – Parents bring their three-year-old children to the local shrine to be blessed and to show that the babies had survived infancy.H
Hakamagi – Before this ceremony, all five year old boys wore kimonos (like a dressing gown). This rite celebrated a five-year-old boy’s crossing into adulthood. Infants and children wore kimonos with cords attached, so they could be tied in front or on the side.
Obitoki – A seven-year-old girl was now old enough to wear an obi (long, wide cloth belt) with her new kimono instead of a cord.
Over time, the three ceremonies were combined. Shichi-go-san takes place every November 15. Many families celebrate on the weekend closest to that day so that the children won’t miss any school. Afterward, the ceremony children are photographed with their families. They receive long red-and-white sticks of hard candy called chitose-ame (thousand-years candy). It’s believed that whoever eats the candy will have a thousand years of happiness. Turtles and cranes—symbols of long life—decorate the candy bag. Later, the children have a special dinner to celebrate.
Popular places to witness a ceremony