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Shichi-Go-San: A Traditional Japanese Rite of Passage

Updated: Dec 7, 2023


Shichi-Go-San
A young family with their sons dressed in traditional clothing during the Shichi Go San Festival

Shichi-Go-San, a traditional Japanese celebration, holds a special place in the hearts of families as they gather to commemorate the growth of their children. Literally translated as "Seven-Five-Three," this festival marks the ages of three, five, and seven, symbolizing significant milestones in a child's life. Rooted in centuries-old customs, Shichi-Go-San reflects Japan's cultural richness and deep appreciation for familial bonds. It is a traditional rite of passage for three-year-old and seven-year-old girls, as well as five-year-old and sometimes three-year-old boys.


The origins of Shichi-Go-San can be traced back to the Heian period (794-1185), where it was initially practiced among the aristocracy. Over time, the celebration became more widespread, and during the Edo period (1603-1868), it evolved into a popular tradition among the common people. Today, the festival remains a cherished cultural event, blending historical customs with contemporary family values.


Shichi-Go-San is primarily observed when children turn three, five, and seven years old. These ages are considered critical milestones in a child's development. At the age of three, children are believed to have grown out of infancy and are introduced to society. At five, they mark the beginning of formal education, while the age of seven signifies the transition from early childhood to a more independent stage.


Fun fact: 15 is a lucky number! 3+5+7=15


The celebration is marked by various rituals and celebrations. Families often visit Shinto shrines, where they pray for the health and prosperity of their children. During these visits, children are dressed in traditional kimono attire, adding a touch of elegance to the occasion.


One of the highlights of Shichi-Go-San is the traditional attire worn by the children. Girls don vibrant and colorful kimono, often accented with elaborate obi (sashes), while boys wear hakama, a type of traditional Japanese clothing. The careful selection of these outfits reflects the significance of the occasion and adds a sense of cultural pride to the celebration.


While Shichi-Go-San maintains its traditional roots, modern celebrations often incorporate additional elements. Photography has become a significant aspect, with families capturing the special moments of their children dressed in traditional attire. Some families also choose to host parties or gatherings to celebrate the festive, creating a more vibrant and communal atmosphere.


Shichi-Go-San is celebrated throughout Japan, but regional variations in customs and traditions exist. In some areas, unique rituals and practices have developed over time, adding diversity to the overall celebration. Despite these differences, the essence of Shichi-Go-San as a celebration of childhood and family remains a unifying factor.


Shichi-Go-San stands as a beautiful testament to Japan's rich cultural heritage and the deep significance placed on family and children. As families come together to honor the growth of their little ones, this tradition weaves a tapestry of shared memories, cultural pride, and a hopeful gaze toward the future. In a rapidly changing world, Shichi-Go-San remains a steadfast reminder of the importance of family, tradition, and the celebration of life's precious moments.



 


Works Cited

“Celebrating Shichi Go San (a Japanese Children's Holiday).” Mochi Mommy, 3 November 2021, https://www.mochimommy.com/shichi-go-san/. Accessed 15 November 2023.

Hida, Miki. “What is Shichigosan in Japan?” Japan Wonder Travel Blog, 6 July 2022, https://blog.japanwondertravel.com/shichigosan-in-japan-34639. Accessed 15 November 2023.

Plewes, Stephanie. “Shichi-Go-San.” Japan Experience, 25 December 2012, https://www.japan-experience.com/plan-your-trip/to-know/understanding-japan/shichi-go-san. Accessed 15 November 2023.

““Shichi-Go-San” | Nippon.com.” nippon.com, 9 November 2015, https://www.nippon.com/en/features/jg00043/. Accessed 15 November 2023.

Shoji, Mai. “The origins of 'shichigosan' ceremony for children aged seven, five and three.” Japan Today, 1 November 2022, https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/The-origins-of-'shichigosan'-ceremony-for-children-aged-seven-five-and-three. Accessed 15 November 2023.

“What is Shichigosan? Thorough commentary on the origin and the best time to celebrate on November 15thKARUTA - Let's Learn JAPAN with Fun!” ヒューマンアカデミー日本語学校, https://hajl.athuman.com/karuta/e/seasonevent/000328.html?code=20039. Accessed 15 November 2023.



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