In Japan, November 15 is Shichi-go-san, a traditional rite of passage celebration honouring boys who are three and five years old and girls who are three and seven. Shichi-go-san literally translates seven-five-three. I’m uncertain why these particular ages are so significant but odd numbers are considered lucky by the Japanese.
Because November 15 is not a national holiday, families often hold their Shichi-go-san celebrations on the weekend preceding that date. In fact, even though today is a Saturday this year, the celebrations have been going on for the past couple of weekends and we even saw a few families at the temple in Narita on Thursday who were clearly there for that purpose.
Little girls are usually dressed in kimono, often for the first time. At three years of age, they usually wear a padded vest called a hifu with their kimono. At seven, an obi takes the place of the simple cord used to tie the kimono. Boys look like little samurai in their traditional outfits.
Shichi-go-san begins with a visit to a temple or shrine to pray for the child’s health and good fortune. It’s also a time when formal photographs are often taken and the family usually goes out for a special meal after the celebration. The children are given chitose-ame, long thin red and white candies. Chitose-ame means thousand-year candy and it’s meant to signify many years of life.
This little one was very shy but her family was delighted when I asked if I could take her picture.