Recap of Shichigosan

Recently I blogged about the Japanese festival of Shichigosan, which happens in mid-November to mid-December. This is a kind of coming-of-age ceremony for children, celebrating their health, and hoping the Shinto kami will continue to look out for them. Sadly, as we just moved back to the US and just started to settle down in our new, permanent home, we were not able to afford the trip, despite the fact my little girl is about to turn three.

The good news though is that her grandparents paid a visit to the famous Shinto shrine of Meiji Jingu (明治神宮).1 I’ve been to this shrine a long time ago in 2005, as you can see here:

Torii Gate at Meiji Shrine

I am the tiny figure on the left standing next to the torii gate (鳥居).

Anyway, Meiji Shrine is a very popular place in Tokyo all year round, including Shichigosan, and the grandparents were nice enough to get a gift package for their granddaughter and send it to our home in the US:

Shichigosan 3

You can see lots of good items came in this little package, but first I wanted to show the package itself:

Shichigosan gifts 2

You can see three children at different ages. The little girl is typical of a three year old, dressed in her first kimono, but a very basic one, since children that age can’t wear most accessories yet, and still need grownups to help dress them. The boy, age 5, is dressed in a traditional haori jacket and hakama trousers, and the girl, age 7, is wearing a real kimono as girls that age are now mature enough to own and wear one. I just thought that was a cool picture.

Now for the contents itself:

Shichigosan gifts

This shows the different items my little girl received. First on the left is the long, hard candy called chitoseame (千歳飴) which is a traditional Japanese sugar candy. I tried one and it was pretty good. Somewhat bland by today’s standard of candy, but probably 10 times healthier too. Our little girl loved it and ate everything up.

Also, included on the right was a charm or omamori (お守り), which are practically ubiquitous in Japanese shrines and temples. It’s just a thing in Japanese culture to invest in charms to ward off potential problems,2 and so this little charm goes into my daughter’s backpack or something else she might carry around outside. Although I never really believe in such charms, I do find them fascinating and I like the interesting designs, unique to each Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine.

The small item at the top is a pamphlet talking about the shrine, which while much more modern than other well-known shrines, is still a very respectable one, due to its role in venerating the spirit of the Meiji Emperor, whose credited with leading Japan out of the feudal period into a modern industrial one.

One other item not shown was a kind of medal for my daughter, featuring a many-colored ribbon and medallion shaped like a chrysanthemum, the symbol of the Imperial Family of Japan (since this came from Meiji Jingu). My daughter proudly wore the medal around her neck for days, before she found other amusements.

I wish my daughter could have celebrated Shichigosan this year, but we’re planning a trip next Spring to make up for it. In the meantime, at least she can enjoy Chitosame candy and some cool souvenirs. :)

1 Notice the term “jingu”, not the more common “jinja” for the Shrine. Certain big, and particularly sacred shrines have names like “jingu” or even “taisha” in some cases.

2 I believe this also occurs in other east Asian cultures as well, but I can’t confirm that. I guess charms are somewhat analogous to lucky rabbit’s feet or lucky coins, socks, whatever in Western culture. Whether they work or not is debatable, but they do tend to provide a sense of assurance when life is uncertain, and life is pretty uncertain pretty often for pretty much everyone.

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3 Comments on “Recap of Shichigosan”

  1. johnl says:

    The chitose ame I believe is one of those Japanese non-jocular puns: the candy represents ‘long’ life (or ‘long and hard?’) Most of the kids you see at the shrines for shichi go san are carrying those long candy bags.

    I didn’t know medals were available. Maybe that is only at Meiji Jingu? I don’t know, but it is a nice touch.

    Also 御目出度う御座います to you and your family!


  2. tornadoes28 says:

    Very interesting.

  3. Doug says:

    Hi guys,

    Johnl: Hm, I ate one of those candies too. Now I am feeling awkward and confused. :-p Just kidding. The medals I believe were from Meiji Jingu only. Like so many kids toys, my little girl wore it proudly for a few days, but then forgot about it. Still, it was pretty cool, and nicely done. Thanks for the good wishes too. :)

    Tornado: Would’ve been better had I actually gone to Meiji Jingu, but oh well. We’re visiting in March and doing a belated shichigosan then. :)

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