Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Festival in Tokyo!

Sundays at Harajuku are special.

It is the day where many Japanese are known to dress up in cosplay costumes and hang out at the ‘hippier’ areas of Harajuku.

That day of every week is also special at Meiji Shrine according to travel guides because, if you’re lucky, you might come across a traditional wedding procession at the temple grounds. So, off on a Sunday I went, to Harajuku for Meiji Shrine, keeping fingers crossed that I’ll get to take photos of a ceremony. How was I to know that not only did I see one wedding procession, it was also the weekend of Meiji Jingu Shrine’s annual chrysanthemum exhibition. But that wasn’t it all. Meiji Shrine gave me even more pleasant surprises that day!

Meiji Shrine, TokyoThis is the gravel path towards Meiji Shrine, which is deep inside. I had quietly followed the trio with the girl wearing the red cap, all the way from the train station, because I didn’t really know where Meiji Shrine was located at, and I presumed they were going to the shrine too because they had been looking at the same map as me at the station.Meiji Shrine Tokyo - gravel pathMeiji Shrine, Tokyo, sakeThese are barrels of sake wrapped in straw, offered each year to the enshrined deities at Meiji Jingu, Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, by members of Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers Association. These donations are made as an expression of deep respect for the late royal couple, who supported and led the industrial growth and modernisation of Japan.

Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Here we are. Meiji Shrine.
[insert]Meiji Shrine, Tokyo[/insert]

Meiji Shrine, TokyoI was looking around, getting a feel of the surroundings, when out of nowhere..

This little girl, dressed in colorful, Japanese traditional costume came into my sight.

Meiji Shrine, Tokyo • Shichi-Go-San festival

And more and more children dressed that way appeared. What’s going on? I had no idea (a result of ‘spontaneous trips’ all the time). But what a surprise! I was very excited and went around taking photos. Meiji Shrine, Tokyo • Shichi-Go-San festival

Unknown to me at that time,
I had stumbled upon a traditional Japanese festival called Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3).


[one_half]Falling on 15th Nov (or the closest Sunday) yearly, Shichi-Go-San is celebrated for girls aged 3 and 7, and boys aged 3 and 5. On this day, prayers are made at a Shinto shrine for the healthy and happy futures for the children. These ages are celebrated because odd numbers are seen as lucky to the Japanese, and also because the 3 ages are deemed as important stage markers for a child’s growth.

At age 3, a ceremony called kamioki (髪置き), children are allowed to let their hair grow out instead of it being shaved constantly as per past traditional customs. At age 5, a young boy gets to wear his first hakama pants in public. The ceremony is called “hakamagi-no-gi” (袴着の儀), associated with roles and responsibilities.[/one_half] [one_half_last]At age 7, a young girl wears her first obi as a broad sash for the kimono instead tying with cords. This method is more ornamental and tedious, symbolizing the transition to womanhood. This ceremony is called “obitoki-no-gi” (帯解きの儀).

After the visit, parents will also buy a long, thin, red-and-white candy, called chitose-ame (“thousand year candy”) for their children. This candy comes in a paper bag decorated with crane and turtle illustrations, representing wishes of health and longevity from the parents.

Today, the 3 ceremonies are not always carried out, but a visit to the shrine for prayers and gratitude remains.


My favorite girl that day. She’s so pretty and sweet-looking!Meiji Shrine, Tokyo • Shichi-Go-San festivalMeiji Shrine, Tokyo • Shichi-Go-San festivalMeiji Shrine, Tokyo • Shichi-Go-San festivalMeiji Shrine, Tokyo • Shichi-Go-San festival

Was very happy to be able to witness this interesting festival. Stay tuned for a blogpost about the Japanese wedding procession that also took place at Meiji Shrine on that day!

Shichi-Go-San takes place on Nov 15 every year, and families will bring the children to a Shinto shrine on the weekend closest to Nov 15.

Visited on: Nov 2012
Meiji Shrine is at 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan. To get there, take train to Harajuku Staion. Admission to Meiji Shrine is free.
Read more about Meiji Shrine here.
Credits: Festival information gathered from these sites: Japan Visitor | Zooming Japan | Go Japan Go | Kids Web Japan

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