If you live in Japan, you may have heard of the “Shichigosan” event.
Shichigosan is one of the traditional Japanese events to celebrate children’s growth once a year, and is celebrated when girls turn 3 and 7, and boys turn 3 and 5.
In recent years, each family has become more flexible, shifting the timing slightly depending on the presence of siblings, work schedule and weather conditions etc.
In my family, we have a 5years old son, and we celebrated his Shichigosan in November this year. It was so wonderful and memorable that I highly recommend it. Today, I would like to share our experience at the Shichigosan.
*This is our old column about Shichigosan!
What do you need to do before shichigosan?
Decide what to do
So when you do the shichigosan celebration, you need to decide what to do on the date! These are the options you might want to try.
- Praying at Shrine?
- Wearing kimono?
- Having a photo shooting?
- Inviting grand parents?
- Family lunch/dinner?
There is no standard ant it’s really up to you. In recent trend, many family do a photo shooting on this day in memorial. Also, kids often wear kimono as it makes the celebration much special!
Choose a date and place
Shichigosan is on 15th Nov in general. But you can choose your convenient date for the celebration depending on the parents’ work schedules, the siblings’ school schedules, the weather, and the physical condition etc.
If you wish a calm and relaxing celebration and photo shooting, I recommend weekdays. Normally, it’s very busy at shrine on any weekends in November. If your schedule allows try weekdays.
Also you need to decide a place. In Japan, there are many temples as well as shrines. In the case of Shichigosan, there are no particular rules, and both shrines and temples are fine. Many people choose the same place where they currently live or where they grew up.
By the way, the way of worship is a little different between shrines and temples. The most important thing to pay attention to is the “Kashiwade” (clapping hands) when praying. It is only at shrines that people clap their hands to pray, not at temples.
Find a kimono dresser and photographer
Then lastly, you need to find your kimono dresser and photographer if you wish.
During the Shichigosan season, there are many plans that include kimono rental and photography all in one package. Many families also choose to have their memorial photo taken in a studio only, and prayers are done in regular clothes.
In any case, the Shichigosan season is very crowded, so early booking is recommended.
One day of Shichigosan
Our family has a 5years old son, and chose to invite grand parents, wear kimono (Papa, Mama and son only), visit Nishinomiya shrine and have a photo shooting. We picked up Wednesday in mid November to avoid the rush busy time but to expect a nice autumn weather. Let’s check what happened on the day!
In the morning around 9 am, a kimono dresser came to our house to put kimono on us. It took 1 hour to get 3 people (Papa, Mama and son) in kimono.
Normally, kimono dressers don’t do the hair make up. So if you wish to have a nice hair make up, you need to finish before wearing kimono!
Celebration at Shrine
We go to Nishinomiya shrine in Nishinomiya city. It is a very beautiful place with a lot of nature and traditional structures.
You cannot reserve a spot in advance for the Prayer here but can walk in the reception and register. It costs 5,000 yen for one kid. At our turn, we entered the prayer room where is lined with shelves dedicated to the gods, offerings, and many special ornaments.
A Shinto priest performs a shukushi (prayer of congratulation) to intercede between the gods and the worshippers. Then a miko (priestess) purifies the shrine with a bell. The child’s name and address, given in advance, are read out, and prayers are made for the child’s healthy growth. It’s a very quiet and solemn time.
*Praying with the priest is an option. Many family also skip this but pray at the main hall by themselves only.
*Nishinomiya shrine does not allow us for the photo shooting in the prayer room. This is the image of the prayer.
Then, we had a family photo shooting! It was actually the first time for us and we were a little nervous but a photographer led us to the nice photo spots and instructed the poses so that we could have a lot of nice pictures even though my 5year old son was very shy for pictures!
After the photo shooting, we changed from kimono to normal clothes. Then went to a restaurant for nice lunch! I really felt happy that we could have an opportunity to appreciate our parents for their support so far. We exchanged the updates and my son sang songs that he learned at school. We had so much peaceful and fun time.
If you have time, I recommend to have family lunch! (It’s ok with only Papa, Mama and kids. Then let’s appreciate within husbands and wives:))
Frequently received gifts
From Shrine, kids get some gifts after the pray. We received Chitose ame, Omamori and a badge.
Chitose ame (Candy) is very unique to Shichigosan.
The word “chitose” has the meaning of “thousand years” or “long years. Chitose candy is also associated with “long and thin” and “longevity” because of its long and thin shape and the fact that it can be stretched to any length when pulled.
The meaning of Chitose candy is to be long and thin, to be tenacious, and to live a long and healthy life.
You can make good memories!
Shichigosan is a good opportunity for Japanese people to pause in their busy lives, give thanks for the happiness they have experienced, and pray for the continued healthy growth of their children.
Autumn in Japan is also a great time for family photos because of the delicious air and beautiful autumn leaves.
It was also a great opportunity for the family to take a picture together in kimono, as Japanese people no longer wear kimono anymore.
JPsalon offers kimono photography no matter of the season. While you are in Japan, why don’t you take a commemorative photo with your family? If you are interested, email us!