The Seven-Five-Three Festival is a rite of passage for young children in Japan. Girls aged 3 or 7 and boys aged 3 or 5 dress up in kimonos, often for the first time, and visit their local shrine (and of course take lots of photos). It takes place on November 15th, some say because this is the sum of 3, 5 and 7.
The origins of this festival date back to the Heian period when children were not registered until they were 7. Odd numbers were considered lucky, and in a time of high infant mortality people visited the shrine to give thanks when their children reached the lucky ages of 3, 5 and 7.
Our little 7-5-3 ceremony took place in January rather than November when my mother-in-law was visiting and could bring the kimonos and dress my girls. Unlike most Japanese families it was a low-key affair, with no elaborate hair-dos, accessories, wigs or make up.
We went to the simple but beautiful local shrine called Hachimansan. As there was snow on the ground they had to wear wellies to the shrine and then change into their geta sandals. It was very cold but they stood patiently while we took more photos then necessary. We celebrated with a hot chocolate at home and then to the nearby hot spring to warm up.
At 7 a girl is allowed to wear an obi, elaborate sash, for the first time.
My children adored dressing up in formal Japanese clothing for the first time, made even more special by wearing kimono handed down through the family. My 6 year old wore her aunt’s kimono, the eldest girl in my husband’s family. When he was five, my son wore his grandfather’s kimono and hakama made over 70 years ago.
Walking down the side of our house I looked up and was struck by the angular lines and edges of the corrugated tin, gable end and annexe roof.
Here in Kanbayashi most of houses are traditional, thatched kayabuki with their distinct high pitched roofs sometimes called gassho, indicating the shape of hands in prayer. Today most are covered with tin or tiles as the traditional craft of thatching has virtually died out making it very expensive to replace.
Winter colours still predominate but here and there a flash of vivid pink plum blossom signals of spring and cherry blossom to come.
Steam rises from the fields as warmth from the morning sun reaches the overnight frost.
There is no discernible taste of tofu (hence the brackets) in this super quick and easy two ingredient chocolate pots, just chocolaty creaminess.
- 90 g chocolate
- 150g silken tofu
- Gently melt the chocolate in a bain marie
- Take the bowl off the heat, add the tofu and blend until smooth.
- Spoon into 2 ramekins
- Cool before serving
This recipe was featured in the Guardian
Spring is my favourite season in Japan, a time of new beginnings and bright, warm days; like a perfect English summers day.
Around here, farmers flood the rice fields ready for planting at the end of April. The landscape changes dramatically, water and sky predominate, creating breathtaking views especially first thing in the morning.
We’re leaving in May so I am thankful I have the chance to see this once more before we go.
Home. Until May when we return to our house in England, our fourth move in three years. Right now, though, home feels deeply rooted here in the mountains and the rice fields and the forests and our kominka (traditional Japanese thatched-roof house). Far away from the place I have been referring to as ‘my home’ for the last two years. More and more that ‘home’ feels very distant…