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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
Shichigosan
This is a celebration for three-, five-, and seven-year-old children. Usually for boys the celebratory ages are three and five, and for girls they are three and seven. On November 15th parents dress the child in their best clothes and visit (sankei) their ujigami (tutelary kami) to express gratitude for and pray for the child's continued health and safety. Sometimes formal banquets are also held for this occasion. From ancient times, both boys and girls up to the age of three had shorn hair, and only after undergoing the formal ceremony called the kamioki, were they allowed to grow it out. Also, for five-year-old boys, there was also the hakama-gi, a ritual of wearing hakama for the first time. For seven-year-old girls there was the Obitoki, a ritual of replacing the narrow belt of a child's kimono with the much wider obi. Particulars regarding which sex does what at each age, as well as the name for those celebrations vary by region, era, and a child's social standing, but we can make the generalization that age-based rituals came to be conducted to pray for and celebrate children's maturation from the precarious stage of infancy (yōji) into the more stable stage of childhood (jidō). Shichigosan refers collectively to the performance of such rituals. The date on which it is celebrated—the fifteenth of the eleventh month or November 15th—although it was also considered an auspicious day in ancient times, specifically became associated with shichigosan when the fifth Tokugawa shogun, Tsunayoshi, conducted rites for his child Tokumatsu on that day. The jūsan mairi in the Kansai region was a ritual similar to shichigosan and also concerns the maturation of children. The jūsan mairi was when thirteen-year-old children visit and worship at a temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kokūzō, and was once a widely known. Also, in rural villages, there were celebrations for every year of childhood and farming communities generally conducted these instead of the more shichigosan. Since the Taishō era, however, shichigosan became conducted in grander fashion and these customs became more elegant and spread nationwide. In Tokyo, on shichigosan day many worshipers come to visit Meiji Jingu and other famous shrines. In addition, the practice of selling 'thousand year' souvenir candy, which began on Kanda Shrine grounds and in Asakusa and other such places, continues to spread.

— Yumiyama Tatsuya
Scenes from a Shichigosan ceremony at Tochigiken Gokoku Jinja.

Tochigi prefecture, 2006

©Ōsawa Kōji

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