Shichi-go-san is one of the life passage ceremonies of the Shinto religion. The
Shichi-go-san customs followed today evolved in the Meiji era (1868-1912).
November 15th was chosen for this celebration because it was considered the most
auspicious day of the year, according to the traditional Japanese calendar.
Shichi-go-san literally means seven, five, three. In most regions around Japan,
parents take their boys and girls aged three, boys aged five, and girls aged seven to
visit a Shinto shrine to express their gratitude to the local deities or kami. The custom
is founded on the belief that the deities protect and look after the children's growth
and health. It is also believed that future blessings may be bestowed at this time.
Traditionally, ceremonies included 'kami-oki' or putting up the hair of a 3-year old girl,
placing 'hakama' or pleated trousers on a 5-year old boy, and giving a 7-year old girl
an 'obi' or silk sash to be worn for the first time.
Following the visit, parents generally buy chitose-ame (longevity candy) for the
children. The candy is shaped like a stick and comes in a bag that carries
illustrations of cranes and turtles--two animals that are symbols of long life. Chitose
literally means a thousand years and is used to denote very long periods of time. The
candy and the bag are both expressions of parents' wish that their children lead long,
The shrine visit is followed by a party or dinner at a favorite restaurant.