Shichi-Go-San, a cherished tradition in Japan, is a celebration that marks significant milestones in the lives of young children. The name “Shichi-Go-San” literally translates to “Seven-Five-Three” in English, representing the ages of the children for whom this celebration is held—three, five, and seven years old. This traditional event is deeply rooted in Shinto beliefs and is observed on November 15th, though actual visits to shrines and temples may take place on surrounding days if the designated date is not convenient.

The Significance of Shichi-Go-San

Shichi-Go-San holds profound cultural and spiritual significance in Japanese society. The ages three, five, and seven are considered critical milestones in a child’s life, representing growth, health, and the transition from infancy to early childhood. The celebration is a way for parents to express gratitude for the well-being of their children and to seek blessings for their future.

Traditional Attire

A central element of Shichi-Go-San is the donning of traditional attire. Both boys and girls are dressed in elaborate kimono, reflecting the cultural richness of Japan. The attire symbolizes the purity and innocence of childhood while also signifying the importance of the occasion. Families take great care in selecting and preparing these outfits, often passing down heirloom kimonos from one generation to the next.

Visits to Shrines and Temples

On or around November 15th, families visit shrines or temples to participate in ceremonies associated with Shichi-Go-San. The visit involves prayers for the child’s health, happiness, and prosperous future. Parents may also make symbolic offerings, such as Chitose-ame, which are long, thin, and colorful candies representing a wish for a thousand years of happiness and longevity.

Photographs and Memories

Capturing the essence of Shichi-Go-San, families often engage in a timeless tradition of taking photographs during the celebration. The children’s radiant smiles and traditional attire make for cherished memories that families hold dear for years to come. These photographs often become treasured family heirlooms, preserving the beauty and significance of the occasion.

Evolution of Shichi-Go-San

While the core traditions of Shichi-Go-San remain steadfast, modern interpretations of the celebration have evolved. Some families choose to celebrate in more contemporary settings, blending traditional customs with contemporary elements. Some people even now take their dogs, who are like children to them, to the festivities.

Relevant vocabulary

Shichi-Go-San (七五三 – しちごさん)

Kimono (着物 – きもの)

Ema絵馬えまSmall wooden plaques on which
wishes or prayers are
written and then left at shrines.
Omamoriお守りAmulets or charms
obtained at
shrines, believed to
bring good luck and protection.