Shichi-Go-San: A Japanese Birthday Celebration

Schichi-Go-San: A Japanese Birthday Celebration

Shichi-Go-San literally means 7-5-3 in Japanese.  The festival, held every November 15, is a traditional rite of passage for Japanese boys turning 3 and 5 and girls turning 3 and 7 years old.  It celebrates the growth and happiness of young children.

shichi-go-san

Photo Credit: Kimono Kids Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0

Children dress in traditional clothing and attend a special ceremony at a shrine (place of worship) with their parents.

Girls wear kimonos. The younger girls usually wear hifu (a type of padded vest) with their kimono.  The older girls wear the obi (a traditional, elegant sash), for the first time.  Boys dress in haori (a traditional Japanese coat) and hakama (traditional leg-wear worn for the first time).

Recently, many children are wearing Western-style dresses and suits instead.

Shichigosan_at_Ikuta_Jinja_Shrine

Attribution: Bergmann at Japanese Wikipedia

Following the ceremony, families take photographs and children receive a special type of candy called chitose ame. The “thousand-year candy” is a pair of white and pink sticks (the colors of good luck) and symbolizes health, growth, and a long life.  The candy comes in a paper bag with images of a crane and a turtle (symbols of longevity) and images of pine trees and bamboo (symbols of good luck).

chitose ame

Why 7-5-3?

There are some different explanations for the ages chosen for this celebration.  These odd numbers are considered lucky, according to Japanese numerology; these were traditionally the ages that children were given a kimono; and traditionally children were expected to have their heads shaven until the age of three and this was a day to celebrate the day a child could begin to grow their hair.  It is also interesting that the numbers equal 15, which is the date for this festival.

Go Further

  • MAKE a chitose ame bag.
  • WATCH two girls prepare for their special day.

            Shichi-go-san festival in Japan from Takeshi Yamada on Vimeo.

Japan Research Project

Shichi-Go-San

3 Comments

  1. Amanda Miss Panda on November 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    What a great article about Japanese birthday celebration! Love the extended hands-on activities included for children to experience the culture.

    • Julie Yeros on November 11, 2017 at 2:15 am

      Thank you! Making a chitose ame bag is a fun craft!

  2. URL on November 27, 2017 at 8:33 am

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