Have Some Chitose Candies for 753! What is Shichi-go-san?

      2016/10/01

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If you understand Japanese or Chinese, you might guess 七五三 is 753.

 

It’s a Japanese ritual event that parents celebrate and appreciate children’s growth and spelled shichi (7) go (5) san (3). The reason it includes 7, 5 and 3 is because they celebrate when children are 3, 5 and 7 years old.

 

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Shichi-go-san event at shrine
Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AShichigosan_at_Ikuta_Jinja_Shrine.JPG

 

 

History of Shichi-go-san (七五三)

It’s said that Shichi-go-san originated in 1681 to hope health of Tokugawa Tokumatsu (徳川徳松). It’s take place on November 15th.

 

The ritual started in Kanto area at the beginning. Then it spread to other cities like Osaka and Kyoto.

 

During Edo period, a lot of young children died and it was extremely hard to survive.

 

There was no official census during Edo period, so researchers guess that average life expectancy was only 30-40 years old.

 

Life expectancy was so low and child mortality rate was so high. Many of children died while they were babies, and most of the children died before they reached 5 years old.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), for example, was a famous Shogun (将軍: military dictator) and had 27 children. However, almost all of them died before they became adult and Iesada (家定) was the ONLY one who grew into a healthy adult. Shogun had more power and better environment, yet only one child survived into adulthood.

As you can imagine, it was extremely hard to have healthy children who survive into adulthood among Japanese citizens.

 

What to do on Shichi-go-san?

 

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Japanese parents usually celebrate boys when they are 3 and 5 years old. They celebrate girls when they reach 3 and 7 years old.

 

There are no specific duties needed to get done, but children usually wear Kimono or suit and go to shrine. Some go to take family photos while others eat out.

Even though a lot of Japanese celebrate Shichi-go-san on November 15, people can also celebrate anytime in October and November.

 

When I was seven, I wore kimono and went to shrine with my family. We didn’t go to take family photos but my father took a lot of pictures. I was very happy to wear kimono and apply a little bit of lipstick. Felt like grown-up!

 

Chitose Candy (千歳飴)

Chitose ame literally means “1000 years old candy.”

Children who celebrate Shichi-go-san get Chitose candy. It hopes children’s health and growth.

Although there are different kinds, traditional Chitose candy has 15mm diameter and within 100cm length.

 

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Chitose Candy
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALong_stick_of_red_and_white_candy_sold_at_children’s_festivals%2Cchitose-ame%2Ckatori-city%2Cjapan.JPG

 

As shown on picture, Chitose candy has special package. This package contains a crane and turtle because they are symbol of long life.

Also there are a green pine tree (松), bamboo leaves (竹) and red plum flowers (梅) to symbolize strength and long life. Moreover, 壽 (ことぶき:kotobuki) means joyous and delighted.

 

Summary

Shichi-go-san is a day to celebrate children’s health and long life.

Children can rent kimono and participate in event in shrine.

The most important thing is to appreciate children’s health. As long as people appreciate it and spend Shichi-go-san together, they don’t have to wear kimono or go to shrine (I think girls want to wear kimono and enjoy a sense of grown-up though).

 

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