七五三 Shichi-Go-San Festival

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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.
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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.

 
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