Do you know a Japanese tradition called Shichigoan? At Shichigosan, families visit a shrine in November to celebrate the healthy growth of children. On that joyful day, Japanese people wear kimono and other formal clothes and visit a shrine.
In this blog, we would like to explain the origin and history of Shichigosan.
As we mentioned, Shichigosan is a custom to celebrate and pray for the healthy growth of children. Families celebrate Shichigosan when the children are 3, 5, or 7 years old.
Shichigosan started in the Heian period and continued on during Edo period among the samurai and merchant classes.
In the Meiji era, it came to be called Shichigosan and spread from the privileged classes to the common people. The current form took place during the Taisho era.
During the Heian period, it was customary for both boys and girls to share their hair on the 7th day after birth and maintain their shaven heads until they turned around 3 years old. People believed that keeping the head hygienic would prevent illnesses and later lead to healthy hair.
In the spring When a child turns 3 years old, a “hair covering ceremony”, also known as a “combing or hair standing” was held. To pray for longevity, people celebrated the event by placing white threads and white cotton hair that imitated white hair over the children’s heads.
When children turned 5 or 7 years old, Hakamanogi or Chakkonogi took place. Boys officially entered the rank of boyhood on that day. Initially, both boys and girls performed this ceremony by wearing hakama, but since the Edo period, only boys have been participating in this custom. The Japanese imperial family still celebrates this tradition when boys are 5 years old.
During the Kamakura period, families celebrated the healthy growth of a girl when she turned around 7 years old by exchanging her kimono’s fastener (tsukehimo) to obi. Later during the Muromachi period, this custom was instituted as Obitokinogi, sometimes called Himootoshi or Yotsumiiwai. In the Edo period, these rituals transformed to the current style: Hakamaginogi for 5-year-old boys and Obitokinogi for 7 seven old girls.
These days, people find it difficult to dress up small children in kimono and to go to a shrine. Instead, families typically take pictures of their children in kimono beforehand, then go to a shrine in Western clothes on another day. At a shrine, children receive chitoseame (a thousand-year candies) to pray for long life. If relatives live close by, families often visit them to show off the children in kimono, have a feast and celebrate their milestone.