• 15 . 11 . 04
  • A traditional day in Japan where children dress in traditional clothes and do traditional things like eating sweets.

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Shichi Go San

I saw an unusually large amount of small children dressed in traditional Japanese clothes this week and was wondering why until I was told that today is Shichi-Go-San, a special day for children in Japan. Translated literally, Shichi-Go-San means Seven-Five-Three. Around the country, parents give small presents to boys aged 3 and 5 and girls aged 3 and 7. These typically take the form of chitose ame presented in little bag.

Odd numbers are considered lucky in Japan and the ages of 3, 5 and 7 were historically important for children, as they represented important milestones in their life. At 3, children were allowed to start growing their hair, instead of having it shaven. At 5, boys were allowed to wear formal dress suits in public, and at 7 girls were allowed to use the obii to tie the kimono, instead of plain cord. (Tying an obii, incidentally, is one of the hardest things known to (wo)man and generally requires two people to do it. I could understand why Japanese women are able to do it independently, only after realising that they’ve had decades of practice!) All of the milestones also traditionally indicated that the child would make it to at least the next milestone without dying.

Today isn’t a national holiday, so families tend to get family portraits taken during this week, and visit temples and shrines at the weekend, hence the large number of dressed up kids.

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