K-12 Outreach for Japanese Culture: 11月 / November (part 2)

This guide is designed for K to 12 instructors who teach Japanese culture and traditions.

七五三 / Shichi-go-san (Seven-five-three Festival)


Shichi-go-san, or the Seven-Five-Three Festival, is an annual celebration on November 15th, for kids turning to 7, 5 and 3 year old. It is a day to celebrate the growth of a child. Unlike today, when this tradition started, food used to be scarce and hygiene was limited, and as an affect, many children passed away. For this reason, on this day, people go to either a shrine or a temple to say thanks to the spirits as well as wish for a healthy and strong child. The tradition started to celebrate the growth of a child comes from aristocratic and samurai families. When boys and girls turn to age three, they would perform the ritual of “kami-oki,” by growing the hair out. When boys turn five, they would perform the ritual of “hakamagi,” by wearing a hakama or a pant-styled kimono, for the very first time. And then when girls turn seven, they would perform the ritual of “himo-otoshi,” by wearing the same kimono and obi or sash as the adults. The Shichi-go-san Festival became very popular ritual to celebrate from the Edo period (1603-1868). Even today, it is common for boys to celebrate at ages three and five, and girls to celebrate at ages three and seven. Boys would often wear hakama and haori, a jacket-like kimono, while girls often would wear a furisode, a long sleeved kimono, while wearing some makeup for the very first time. After dressing up, kids are taken to the shrines and temples by their parents and family members. It recently become popular to professionally get their child photographed in these special clothes on this special day.

七五三の神社でのお参り / Shichi-go-san Ceremony at a Jinja Shrine

男の子のファッション / A little boy wearing a hakama and haori

女の子のファッション / A little girl wearing a furisode

七五三と和菓子 / Shichi-go-san to Wagashi (Seven-five-three Festival and Sweets)


宮参りの帰りに神社やお寺がお祝いとし、「千歳飴」 という飴を袋に入れ、子供たちにあげる。千歳飴とは、米と麦芽を糖化させてつくる紅白の棒飴で、袋の中には各色が一本ずつ入っている。千歳飴の形は、「細く長く」生きてほしいという、親の思いが詰まっている。袋には、松竹梅や鶴亀など、めでたい絵が描かれている。千歳飴は江戸時代の時に売り出り、人気が出て、今でも食べられている。大阪では千歳飴ではなく、「知恵おこし」という、穀物を飴で固めた紅白のお菓子。

During the Shichi-go-san season, sweets that are in the shapes of bells and chrysanthemums start to line up at the sweets shop. The bell is used at shrines or temples in hopes of growth in the children. Like the Chrysanthemum Festival in September, the chrysanthemum symbolizes no diseases and good health.  

At the end of the Shichi-go-san ceremony, kids are given “chitose-ame” (chitose means one thousand years) in a colorful bag. In each bag, there are one white and one red chitose-ame. These candies are long and skinny, made from rice and malt. The reason for this long and skinny shape comes from the parent’s wish for the kids to live a long life. On the bag of chitose-ame, there are brightly illustrated images of either pine/bamboo/plum and/or crane/tortoise for good luck. The colors, red and white, symbolizes happiness and propitious occasions (it's also the colors of the Japanese flag). It is reported that chitose-ame started selling at stores around the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and continues to be popular. However, in Osaka Prefecture, people prefer to give “chi-e-okoshi” at the ceremonies instead of chitose-ame. Chi-e-okoshi is a red and white sweets made of grains coated and molded with candy. 

鈴の形を模った和菓子 / Wagashi in the shape of a bell

千歳飴 / Chitose-Ame

七五三ビデオ / Shichi-go-san Video (Seven-five-three Festival Video)

Shichigosan video by Hello-Nippon.net, a Japanese cultural website.