A Day of Prayer and Kimono: The Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Festival
Shichi-go- san is the festival held every November 15th throughout Japan. Shichi-go-san in Japanese means 7-5-3. This is a special day for children aged three, five and seven years. They will visit nearby shrines with their parents and attend prayers conducted there. During this particular day, prayers are offered to the Shinto god of health, Ujigami, for growth, good health and longevity of the children. Both the girls and boys wear Japanese traditional dress during this day while visiting.
Three and seven-year-old girls and three and five-year-old boys are commonly celebrating this festival. Girls will be commonly wearing kimonos for the first time on this day. While boys wear their first hakama (traditional Japanese male garb) during their shrine visit. Photographs of these well-dressed young ones will be taken on this day and their parents get to enjoy the full day of seeing them dressed in their first kimono. Some families will conduct small parties at their home or outside.
Chitose ame is a special candy given to children during this festival day. Chitose ame literally means thousand year candy. They are given to children to wish them a long life. These are long candies in red and white colours. These are the colors of the occasion or special celebrations in Japan. These candies are enclosed in special covers with pictures of turtles and cranes over them, which historically, have always been considered as the symbols of longevity and good luck. Other gifts are also given to the children by family members and relatives such as money (called goshugi) and toys.
Why 3, 5, 7?
Like other Asian nations, odd numbers are considered good luck in Japan. Thus the ages three, five and seven are celebrated. These ages were special during ancient times. Special dresses like kimono and hakama were allowed to be worn starting from the age of five or seven only. Girls kimonos tend to be bright red and pink they represent youth. And that practice continues even today, but in a different manner. November 15th is considered a day of good luck in the entire year and hence selected to celebrate this special festival in the life of every Japanese kid. We can see shrines crowded with children along with their parents and relatives on this special day. People will be taking a number of photos with their young ones as they are dressed up in their gorgeous attire for the first time.
Renting shichi-go-san dresses
As buying kimonos for small children is really an unwanted expenditure (as children do grow up after all and they can't be used again), most parents rent kimonos for the shichi-go-san day. There are special shops and studios who rent shichi-go-san clothes for the children for a single day. Parents have to make prior booking for these dresses.
Like every other festival, this day is also commercially important to some groups of people. It is a rush season for studios, photographers, restaurants, gift shops etc. People love to dress up in their most elegant manner and take memorable pictures in a professional way. Also they prefer spending the whole day tension free with their children and family. It is a day for the children to remember for their entire life and that importance is there for this festival which is shared by every parent.