You may encounter Japanese families with children wearing on colorful kimonos when you visit to shrines and temples between late October and mid November in Japan. It is the season of “Shichi-Go-San” (means “Seven-Five-Three” in English) which is the traditional Japanese custom to celebrate children’s growth and to pray for their health in the future. (Japan has some customs to celebrate children’s growth such as Children’s Day.)
The numbers are related to children’s growing
At the ancient time, it was common that many infants could not live longer due to disease, so parents and grandparents are said to start celebrating the growth of their children when they became at 3, 5, and 7 years old. (In fact, celebrations are held at 3 and 7 years old for girls and 5 years old for boys. ) It was because of ancient customs that boys and girls began to stretch their hair at 3 years old, boys began wearing on Hakama (traditional male costume) at 5 years old and girls began wearing on Kimono at 7 years old. (In recent years, there are many cases to celebrate at 3 year old for both boys and girls)
The custom emerged in Heian era (almost 1,200 years ago) and it settled among people in Edo era (almost 400 years ago), we have kept it for hundreds years even though the style has adjusted in our modern life. Originally, we used to hold the ceremony at neighbor shrines or temples on November 15th, but the custom had changed gradually according to our lifestyle. Nowadays, most of the family have visited to shrines and temples on the weekend between late October and mid November. Additionally, some boys no longer wear on traditional kimonos, but on western style suits. I just remember my Shichi-Go-San ceremony when I was 7 years old. My parents decided to hold the ceremony together with my brother and sister who are twins and 5 years younger than me although they were still 2 years old. It might be because of family matter and financial issue…l guess now.
Children in kimono costume are so adorable
When I visited to Hikawa Shrine in Omiya, Saitama prefecture last weekend, there were many families to celebrate their Shichi-Go-San. There were so many photo spots in the main building area and especially, parents / grand parents and their camera persons seemed to be more enthusiastic and busy for taking lots of photos of kids by letting them pose like fashion models. (Needless to say, a kid is a kind of shining star for parents and grand parents because there are many cases that he/she is the only child due to declining of the birth rate. )
Children wearing on traditional kimono are literally so adorable, and you may want to take their photos for your memory in Japan. One day, I encountered the scene at Meiji Shrine when I were with my tour guests. One of Japanese families with a little girl wearing on pretty kimono were surrounded by so many foreign visitors and they were taking a photo with the girl one after another. They seemed to be in a hurry due to the next schedule, but the visitors didn’t let them go for a while. I think it is OK to ask them to take a photo if they are not busy and accept your offer, otherwise it is nice for us to watch over quietly and celebrate them from a little away.