TOKYO - Each year, on the Saturday closest to November 15, children aged 3, 5 and 7 all across Japan dress up in traditional garments — kimonos for the girls and hakamas for the boys — and are taken by their parents and grandparents to shrines to participate in an ancient ceremony called Shichigosan.
On a recent stopover in Tokyo, I got to see the colourful event up close while visiting this city’s incredible Meiji Shrine, where dozens of young people dressed in beautiful costumes arrived at the sacred Shinto landmark to say prayers and be blessed.
The kids don’t seem to mind because they’re rewarded with a special bag containing a candy called chitoseame — a long red- and-white stick whose name means the “thousand year candy.”
Above: Families proudly dress up their kids in traditional outfits for the grand ceremony.
When broken down, the word shichigosan means seven (shichi), five (go) and three (san). The ceremony dates back to Japan’s Muromachi Period — 1336-1491 — when warrior families began celebrating the rite of passage.
Because infant mortality was rampant back then, children who reached 3 were celebrated, while turning 5 meant a infant boy became “a big boy,” and 7 is the age when a girl can officially begin wearing a kimono.
Left: A boy struggles with his traditional garb. Right: An older sister proudly stands with her brother.
The grandparents are especially proud of their grandchildren on this day and are only too happy for strangers like me to take pictures of their adorable kids.
Afterwards, the families head off to restaurants for special rice dishes enhanced with red beans and sea bream.