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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on November 29, 2018
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 96] November 29, 2018

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 96]
November 29, 2018
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal event
Celebrating children's growth all together: Shichi-Go-San

:: 1. Seasonal event

Here is a Haiku written by KONISHI Raizan who was a Haiku poet living
in the 17th century.
"Hakamagiya Kono zori toru Oyagokoro"
Interpretation: I am in my Kimono and handing Zori (Japanese
traditional sandal associated with kimono) to my child.I'm extremely
happy to celebrate my child's growth.

As the name shows "Shichi (七)"means seven, "Go (五)"means five,
"San (三)" means three, "Shichi-Go-San" is a traditional event in
which parents and children go to a shrine together and express their
gratitude for children's healthy growth so far and pray for their
happiness in the future. This event is one of rite of passages,
usually called "Sachi-Go-San no Oiwai" or "Kodomo no Toshiiwai".
Celebrations are held at the age of three and five for boys but three
and seven for girls.

The original form of "Shichi-Go-San" dates back to the Heian period
in the 10th century. Among imperial court and courtier society, the
ceremony started to take place to celebrate children's growth at the
lucky odd number three, five and seven years old. Since Muromachi
period (15c), "Kami oki no Ghi" was held for both boys and girls at
their age of three."Hakamaghi no Ghi" was held for boys at their age
of five while "Obitoki no Ghi"was held for girls at their age of

"Kami oki no Ghi" is the celebration of the growth from a baby to an
infant. There was a custom that the baby's hair was shaved since they
were born, but from an auspicious day in November at the age of
three, they stopped shaving and let it grow. "Hakamaghi no Ghi"was a
cerebration in which a boy stood up facing an auspicious direction
and was dressed in Hakama (kimono trousers) for the first time by his
godparents. "Obi toki no Ghi" was a cerebration for baby girls
becoming girls and changing from the infant kimono to kimono with
sash which an adult usually wears.

At the beginning, these ceremonies were held on different auspicious
days in November. The third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty, Iemitsu
TOKUGAWA had a son called Tsunayoshi who was poor in health. Iemitsu
wished for his son's well-being and held "Hakamaghi no Ghi"on the
15th of November. After that, this date was regarded as the date for
"Shichi-Go-San". The name "Shichi-Go-San" started to be used since
the middle of the Edo era (17c). All three ceremonies merged and were
held on the same date. It now takes place on any auspicious days in
October and November according to the Japanese calendar with six
labels, but not only on 15th of November. Nowadays, we do not shave
baby's hair and do not wear kimono daily. There are very few people
who know the meaning and origin of "Shichi-Go-San", but it has still
been continuously inherited as a traditional Japanese custom.

The reason why those celebrations for children's growth were held at
the age of three, five and seven since ancient times was that there
was a high mortality rate before reaching an older age. At that time,
children aged seven years old or below were regarded as god's
children whose lives had not properly settled in this world yet. When
they reached the age of seven, the local shrine approved them as an
"Ujiko (Shrine parishioner)" in the ritual called "Ujiko iri" which
also means that they became a human child.

There are more celebrations related to children's growth in their
lives, on the third day after birth called "Mitsume", on the seventh
day called "Oshichiya", and then the "Shichi-Go-San" ceremonies.Those
celebrations show how people highly valued children's lives, feel
delighted and thankful for children's growth in the long past
history. Not only for the family join the celebration, but also
grandparents, relatives and neighbours. They all gathered to
celebrate together. Children rarely lived very long at that time,
therefore those celebrations were big deal for getting involved with
the society around them. We can easily imagine that they have felt
extreme happiness during those celebrations.

"Shichi-Go-San" is being held in many shrines throughout Japan during
this season. If you go to a shrine, you can see many cute children
with kimono. They will certainly be holding the "Shichi-Go-San" must-
have item, a bag of "Chitose ame" which is a thin and long candy for
wishing long life. How do you celebrate children's growth in your

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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