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7-5-3 Celebration

    According to Japan National Tourism Organization's description, 七-五-三 (shichi-go-san) or 7-5-3 is a ceremonial visit paid by parents and children to their tutelary shrines to offer gratitude for the healthy growth of their children. Celebrations are carried out on November 15th for boys who reach the age of 3 or 5, or for girls who turn 3 or 7 years old. The custom is for the children to dress in their best clothes, and to carry Chitose-ame which are long thin candy sticks colored in red and white, believed to bring good luck. I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany my host mom and her son's family as they celebrated her three year old granddaughter's 7-5-3 at Meiji Jingu shrine.

    November 15th was a Tuesday and luckily I had a long break between my morning class and late afternoon classes to meet up with my host mom for the big day ahead. I left Sophia campus after my morning class and headed straight to Shinjuku by subway. I live with just my host mother normally and so this was also my first time meeting her son, his wife and her granddaughters whom I hear many stories about. We all had a nice and filling Obento lunch at the top of Isetan department store before heading for the shrine.

IMG_2658(Unagi (eel) and chicken boxed lunch with egg and vegetable sides)

    Although it was a regular weekday, with many people still at work or school, Meiji Jingu shrine was bustling with activity that day. There were many adorable children dressed up and running around with their family for the celebration. There was also more tourists than usual at the shrine whom could be seen eagerly snapping up photos of the cute children as they passed by. Many parents (usually mothers only) were dressed up in kimono as well alongside their children. Some even wore matching hairstyles and kimonos! Because Meiji Jingu shrine is quite large, it took us about 15 minutes or more to travel by foot from Harajuku station to the inner grounds of the temple for the ceremony.

    During the ceremony parents and their children sat down in seiza or the traditional formal way of sitting (on your knees with your feet tucked beneath you) as we listened to prayers and chantings performed by priests and a dance performed by the priestesses; after the ritual adults were offered a small saucer of Nihonshu on their way out and so I also received a saucer and had my first taste of fine sake in Japan. Pictures were not allowed inside the temple during the blessing and purification ritual. However afterwards we gathered up and took group photos at various places around the temple.

IMG_2666(A group photo of my host mom, her family and I; posing for a photo at Meiji Jingu)

    As we were exiting the area after the ritual my host mom pointed out to me a traditional wedding ceremony also taking place at the time. Luckily I already had my camera out and so I quickly joined alongside many other tourists and took a few photos of this beautiful bride on her big day. Many on lookers and photo takers were scrambling to get their cameras out, into position and out of the way of the the procession as quickly as possible which was also amusing to watch.

IMG_2700(Picture of a traditional wedding taking place at Meiji Jingu)

    Overall I had a great time with my host mom and her son's family and was really glad I had the opportunity to attend and witness such a notable and unique tradition in Japanese culture. By the end of it I didn't feel as guilty taking photos of other families and their children as I did initially as my host mom was also doing the same along our way back to the station. I guess no one can quite resist taking photos of all the adorable children on their big day.

IMG_2715(A boy playing around in his formal clothes on 7-5-3)

    I leave you all with an adorable shot of a boy in his 7-5-3 clothes. It is already late November and the weather has finally started to act more like autumn as it slowly turns colder everyday in Japan. The autumn leaves are finally turning redder in hue as everyone starts looking forward to maple leaf viewing in Japan. Stay warm and until next time!


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It is really great to know that these type of celebrations are carried out in Japan. It is very interesting that kids of all age groups visit shrines to offer their gratitude.

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