About Shichigosan (Seven-Five-Three Ceremony-七五三)
Shichigosan is an annual Japanese festival to celebrate a milestone in life by visiting a shrine to appreciate the growth of 3 year old (boys and girls), 5 year old (boys) and 7 year old (girls), which is an important milestone in their childhood.
In Japan, on November 15th, children who have turned 3, 5, and 7 years old can be seen wearing sundresses and visiting shrines. At the shrine, they can have a purification ceremony to ward off bad luck, or buy Chitose candy and take a commemorative photo.
The beginning of Shichigosan, Seven-Five-Three Ceremony
Shichigosan has its roots in the rituals of “hair placement, Kamioki”, “Japanese traditional ceremonial dress wearing, Hakamagi”, and “untying of the obi, Obitoki” that have been practiced in the courts and samurai families since the late Middle Ages. Since the Edo period, boys have been celebrating at the ages of three and five years old and girls at three and seven years old.
In the old days, the death rate of infants was so high that they were said to be “God’s children until the age of seven,” so they celebrated their safe upbringing at each milestone and prayed for their healthy growth thereafter.
The three rituals became one in the latter part of the Edo period, and later spread to become what they are today.
The ceremony of Shichigosan
3 years old : The ceremony of hair placement, Kamioki.
It’s a celebration of the growth from baby to child. It is a festive ritual for both boys and girls. baby used to shave their hair until baby was three years old, and baby started growing it out after the ceremony.
5 years old : The ceremony of Japanese traditional ceremonial dress wearing, Hakamagi.
This is a boy’s festive ritual, celebrating the growth from child to boy and wearing hakama, Japanese traditional ceremonial dress, for the first time.
7 years old : The ceremony of untying of Obi, Obitoki.
It is a celebration of the growth of child to girl. It changes from a kimono with a string for child to a kimono with an obi knot for girl.
Generally, Shichigosan celebrations are held in the year of counting (the term the mother is in her belly is counted as one year, and the day of birth is one year old, with two years old on next New Year’s Day), but nowadays there are more and more celebrations that don’t stick to the year of counting, such as taking the growth of the child into consideration, or having siblings celebrate together.
Why is Shichigosan celebrated on November 15th?
The reason why Shichigosan was set on November 15th was because the day was considered to be a best luck day for everything, but nowadays it is often celebrated on a holiday around the 15th, and in the northern regions of Japan, it is sometimes held in October to avoid the cold weather.
In the Edo period, the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, held a ceremony to pray for the safe growth of his eldest son, who had a weak constitution, on November 15th, and this ceremony is said to have taken root in the public.
There is also a theory that November is the month of autumn harvest, which is a month of good fortune, so the number 3, 5 and 7 were added to make it 15th.
Nowadays, however, many people don’t care about the 15th, but choose the good luck day from October to November when the family will be together.
The attire of Shichigosan
Japanese costumes are also the origin of Shichigosan, making girls look cuter and boys look more dignified, and western costumes are also popular.
More and more people are going to visit the shrine in gorgeous Japanese costumes for rent, and people are going to have a family dinner party in western costumes that are easy for the children to wear.
In addition, the dress of attendants (father, mother, etc.) is also basically formal.
Chitose candy, Chitose ame
Chitose candy is made by pulling and stretching, so it is a red and white long candy with good omen, which is associated with long life. The bags are decorated with auspicious motifs of crane, turtles and pine, bamboo and plums, and the name “Chitose” (1,000 years) is also auspicious, so it is customary to carry a bag of Chitose candy on the Shichigosan.
There are many theories about the origin of Chitose candy, but in the Edo period (1603-1868), when the Shichigosan event was popularized, Chitose candy already existed.
When we see a child holding a long bag of Chitose candy and being held the hand by his or her father or mother, we feel happy to see how cute he or she is.