Shichi-go-san

Shichi-go-san, meaning "7-5-3" is a traditional festival held in Japan on the 15th of November. It is organized for three and seven years old girls and five year old boys. Numbers 3, 5 and 7 were chosen because Japanese numerology finds odd numbers lucky.

Kids at the Shichi-go-san festival
Kids at the Shichi-go-san festival

The origins of this festival are in the Heian Period (794-1185) when it was present among nobility as celebration of entering children into middle childhood. Samurai class later introduced several more rituals. Until the age of three all children had their heads shaven. From that age they could have their hair grown. At the age of five boys wore hakama (traditional Japanese clothing) for the first time. Girls on the other side started using obi with their kimonos when they turned seven.

Minor changes in Shichi-go-san were introduced during Meiji period (1868-1912). Hair ritual does not exist anymore. Boys, aged three or five, and girls, aged three or seven, wear kimonos. Together with their families they visit shrines. Three years old girls also wear hifu which is kind of vest. Nowadays, apart from visiting shrines, Shichi-go-san is also known as a day when photographs of children are made.

Mother and her daughter
Mother and her daughter

Finally, something called Chitoseame ("thousand year candy") has to be mentioned. It is given to children on the day Shichi-go-san festival. Chitoseame is a long, thin, red and white candy. It is a symbol healthy growth and long life.

Chitoseame candy (photo by katorisi)
Chitoseame candy

Children get Chitoseame in a bag with a crane and a turtle on it. In Japan these animals are symbols of long life. Chitoseame is wrapped in an edible rice paper so children do not have to bother with removing the wrapping.