Japanese Culture – Shichi-go-san

Hello everyone,

Today, 15th of November is a special day in Japan as it is 七五三 (しちごさん).

七五三, if you have correctly learnt your numbers, is composed of three figures:

  • 七 (しち) / 7 /
  • 五 (ご) / 5 /
  • 三 (さん) / 3 /

In this day, Japanese famillies celebrate either their son’s 3rd or 5th year, or their daughter’s 3rd or 7th year.

This celebration is thought to have been set by court nobles during the 平安時代 (Heian jidai) / Heian period / and later on by 侍 (さむらい) / samurai /, and marked the passage of children to complete beings. At this time child mortality was still high and it was not obvious that a child would grow to become an adult. That’s the reason why when they reached the age of 3, 5 or 7 years old, which like odd numbers are considered as lucky numbers, this was marked as a special day with visit to shrines and some rituals which still persist in our days.

The age of 3 is the 髪置きの儀 (かみおき の ぎ) / allowing the hair to grow / {relation} / ceremony /. Before this age children’s hair was shaved on the top (somehow like this:

) to avoid parasites and diseases, and at 3 they were given the permission to let their hair grow.

Nowadays this is the opportunity for little girls to wear the 振り袖 (ふりそで) / furisode, long sleeved kimono / and the 被布 (ひふ) / hifu, padded coat /, and more and more frequently for boys to wear the 袴 (はかま) / hakama, man’s divided skirt /, althought this was in old times only allowed at the age of 5.

The age of 5 is 袴着(はかまぎ)の儀 / to wear hakama / {relation} / ceremony / where boys were autorised to wear 袴 (はかま) and 羽織 (はおり) / haori, formal man coat / with their 家紋 (かもん) / family emblem / embroided on the sides of the chest.

The age of 7 is 帯解きの儀  (おびとき の ぎ) / obi untie / {relation} / ceremony /, where girls are allowed to wear the 帯 (おび), a large silken belt, in place of strings they used to tighten up their kimono around their waist.

The age of 7 was also the opportunity for girls and boys to receive an 氏子札 (うじこふだ) / charm / stating that they were grown ups. Nowadays these are replaced by お守り (おまもり) / amulet charm /.

 

Here it is! Do not hesitate if you have questions!

七五三おめでとうございます。

Stéphane

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