What is “Shichi-go-san”?

伝統行事(でんとうぎょうじ): Traditional events

Japanese article is here; https://japaneselanguagesalonbymikapanda.com/what-is-shichigosan-1066

“Shichi-go-san” is the traditional event for children

Hello, this is MIKA!

15th November is the day of “Shichi-go-san” in Japan. “Shichi” is “Seven”, “Go” is “Five”, and “San” is “Three”.

“Shichi-go-san” is Japanese traditional event that girls who are 3 and 7 years old and boys who are 5 years old dressed with Kimono visit a shrine or a temple with their family.

The reason why they do that is to tell “Thank you for watching our children affectionately until today” and “We wish our children could grow up healthy” to Japanese Gods or Buddha.

That’s why we often see children with Kimono around this season.

By the way, why girls are 3 and 7, and boys are only 5 years old?

And, why do we held that event on 15th November?

The reason why only 3, 5, and 7 years-old children do that

Then, I’ll explain the first question.

The first reason is that odd numbers are stronger than even numbers in Chinese cosmology.

The second reason is because 3, 5, and 7 years old are the stages of their growing process; children start to speak some words at 3 years old, and grow wise at 5 years old, and come off and change their toothes at 7 years old.

The beginning of “Shichi-go-san” is Heian era(794~1192), over 1,000 years ago from now. At that time, the death rate of children were very high, so it was too hard to grow them up until 7 years old. That’s why people thought they were “Children of Gods”, not human’s until 7. So, 7 years old is the final and biggest stage of their growing process which they become human’s children by “Children of Gods”.

The history of “Shichi-go-san”

The origon of “Shichi-go-san” is in Heian era, but it had been spread in Edo era(1603~1868), and it is the original form of today’s “Shichi-go-san”.

Anyway, what ritual did they do in Heian era?

At 3 years old; “Kami-oki-no-gi”

In Heian era, to keep a hygienic condition, people shaved their chirdren’s hairs like a Buddhism priest until they would become 3 years old, of course not only boys but also girls!

And when they have been in 3rd year’s spring, people celebrated them by putting the wig made by white threads or cottons which was compared to white hair to with their longevity.

At 5 years old;”Hakama-gi-no-gi”

“Hakama” is the clothes which the boy in the picture is wearing and looks like a skirt. Now, it’s used as an uniform worn in matial arts such like Kendo and Kyuudo.

By putting on “Hakama”, boys and girls will be a child from a little child. However, in Edo era(1603~1868), only boys did that.

At 7 years old; “Obitoki-no-gi”

From Kamakura era(1192~1333) to Muromachi era(1336~1573), 9-year-old boys and girls did “Obitoki-no-gi”, the ritual which change a sash to a belt at first time.

But in Edo era, only boys did “Hakamagi-no-gi”, and only girls did “Obitoki-no-gi”.

Why is it on 15th November?

Next, I’ll explain about second question. There are many opinions about the origin of the date, but now I’ll tell you some prevailing views.

Because it’s the day of full moon

15th november in the old calendar, it was the day of full moon with high probability. Because people had thanked their hervest to “Ujigami-sama” on that day, “Shichi-go-san” had been held together.

Because Shogun’s son got better

Tokumatsu, the son of Iemitsu Tokugawa, the 3rd Shogun of Edo Shogunate Government was a child who had a very weak body.

Then, Iemitsu Tokugawa wished his son’s growing on 15th November in the old calendar, Tokumatsu had got better and grown up. That’s why the custom to celebrate “Shichi-go-san” on that date has become establish.

Because “Oni”, Japanese damon doesn’t go around

15th november in the old calendar, it was “Kisyuku-bi”, the day which “Oni” doesn’t go around because 15th day was the date which Buddha had been born. So it was good day to do everything.

What is “Chitose-ame” candy?

Finally, I’ll tell you about “Chitose-ame” candy, it’s the standard goods of “Shichi-go-san”.

On most of its bags, crane and turtle are drown. The reason why is Japanese people believe that they are animals of good omen because they live very long time. There is the word to symbolize that; “Cranes live 1,000 years, and turtles live 10,000 years”.

In addition, watching it carefully, a branch of a pine tree, a flower of Japanese plum tree, and leaves of a bamboo are also drown on the bag. They are said “Syou-chiku-bai” in Japanese; “Syou” is a pine, “Chiku” is a bamboo, and “Bai” is Japanese plum. They are plants of good omen too, because they live strong against cold winter.

And “Chitose-ame” is slender candy with red and white.

Why their color is red and white is that they are colors of good omen in Japan.

And why it’s slender is that there is the wish “Chirdren can live long and thin”. “Thin” means “Steadily” and “Bit by bit”.

Additionally, because a candy is a sticky sweet before hardening, there is another wish “To live persistently”.

The origin of “Chitose-ame” candy is being sold at Sensou-ji temple of Asakusa in Edo era.

Final comment

How was it?

Not only “Hina-matsuri” and “Children’s day”, but also there is the traditional event to thank and wich children’s growing!

When your son will become 5, or daughter will become 3 or 7 years old in Japan, let’s go to a shrine or a temple to celebrate his or her growing!

“Ujigami-sama”, a neighboring temple, or famous shrines or temples which is far from your home…all of them are OK as the place which you visit.

And then, there is no rule to do “Shichi-go-san” on 15th, so there are many families which do it before or after 15th by managing their each schedules.

In addition, there are some families to do it with his/her brothers or sisters. That’s why it isn’t a problem if he/she is 4, 6, or 8 years old.

When you see the children with Kimono around this season, say “Congratulations” for them in your mind!