Autumn 2015

A young girl wearing kimono. - Photo in the Public Domain

Kids’ Korner: Special Numbers, 7-5-3?

Are there any ages that are special for you?

In Japan, the ages 3, 5 and 7 are very special. There is even a festival every November 15th called “Shichi-go-san”; literally 7 (shichi) 5 (go) and 3 (san) in Japanese. This is the day when parents celebrate the growth of their children and many families visit their local shrine or temple to pray for the health of their children and family.

Traditionally at age 3, children were allowed to grow their hair out, marking their first step towards adulthood.

Boy in Hakama

Young Boy Wearing Hakama

Creative Commons Photo

At age 5, boys were allowed to wear hakama for the first time. In traditional Japanese society, men wore different kinds of hakama. For young boys, being able to wear hakama was another step towards becoming an adult.

Girls were allowed to wear kimono for the first time at age 7. Wearing these beautiful and colorful outfits marked another step on their path to adulthood.

Nowadays, people do not wear hakama or kimono daily and children are allowed to grow their hair out before the age of 3, but the tradition of Shichi-go-san remains a celebration marking the milestones of growing up.

On Shichi-go-san, children look forward to receiving Chitose-ame, or “Thousand-year candy.” This stick-shaped sugary candy has been a favorite of children through the ages.

Chitose-ame usually comes in special bags with the images of cranes and turtles on them. According to legend, cranes can live for a thousand years and turtles for ten thousand. Pictures of pine trees, bamboo, and plums trees also often adorn the bags.

Chitose-ame usually comes in pairs, with one red and one white stick. The designs on the bag and the colors of the candy are considered good luck charms for a long and healthy life.

  • Questions:
  • Is there any age that is important for your culture?
  • Do you have any good luck charms at home?
  • Are there any colors that have a special meaning for you?

Banner Photo: A young girl wearing kimono

Creative Commons Photo

Japan Info is a publication of the Consulate General of Japan in New York. However, the opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

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