Friday, October 22, 2010
As an American kid living in Japan, I remember my first shichigosan ceremony. My fellow playmates, neighbors and other children dressed up in their little hakama and kimonos and proceeded to the local shrine (maybe for their first time, I know it was mine). We walked up the stairs, through the aged torii gate into the main shrine’s building to be blessed and given a bag with chitose-ame ("thousand-year candy") which is a long, thin red and white candy--that reminded me of a candy cane. In Japanese culture it represents growth when placed in a small bag with a crane and turtle-- all to give long life.
The Shichigosan, or the 7-5-3 ceremony, began around the Heian period as a rite of passage from childhood into young adulthood. Each age represented a different achievement within the child’s life. At the age of three, a child could begin to grow their hair, representing they were no longer babies. At the age of five, boys could wear the hakama, and at age seven the girls could begin wearing an obi with their kimono. By age seven all children were considered young adults and ready to enter a new phase in their lives. This ritual also was a way to chase away evil spirits from the child to ensure that they would be given a long healthy life.
Shichigosan is a special ceremony that makes a child feel a bit more magical and ready to take on the world. Though the two ceremonies Japan Society hosts with the Shinto Foundation this weekend are full, we wish all children, no matter what nationality or religion health, happiness and well being!