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27.11.13

Loving November in Tokyo : Shichi-Go-San「七五三」Festival

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

November. My favorite month in Japan.

The air is crisp, but not cold yet. The typhoons are a forgotten nightmare. The sun shines over the leaves changing color. The weather is so beautiful, that has its own name akibare 「秋晴れ」. It's the time to enjoy seasonal foods, like kabocha (pumpkin)「南瓜」, fugu or imo (sweet potato) 「芋」. Also to pick apples from the trees in Nagano「りんご狩り 長野」. Warm enough to take a dip in Okinawa. Cold enough for a rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) to not feel overly off season.

The best, is to visit a major temple around November 15: What's more kawaii than a kid? A Japanese kid, in kimono.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

Some tourists came to me to ask about the reason why all these kids are wearing kimonos to the temple? 7·5·3

Shichi-Go-San「七五三」(literally means 7, 5, 3) is the ceremony of presenting the children to Ujigami「氏神」, the Shinto guardian god of good health. Only kids on the mentioned ages are presented, because:

[1] Odd numbers (3,5,7) are considered lucky (while even are terrible, specially 4, as we learn by attending a wedding)

[2] In the old days, these odd ages where milestones in life of Japanese.

  • At 3, parents started to let their children’s hair grow out "kamioki", to celebrate their growth.
  • At 5, boys wore their first hakama「袴」(pleated traditional trousers), in the hakamanogi donning celebration.
  • At 7, girls celebrated the obitokinogi rite, going from straps to secure the kimono to wear obi.


[3] Nov 15 is the festival day for Ujigami「氏神」, the day of celebrating the autumn harvest under the lunar calendar and the luckiest day, according to yin and yang.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

Meiji-Jingu was packed with offers to the Ujigami.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

As you can see, the boats come from different prefectures (the one below is from Machida) and are built with seasonal vegetables harvested in fall:
- Daikon (white radish, what you see shredded in your sashimi)
- Kabocha (pumpkin-like)
- Imo (sweet potato)
- Kyabetsu (cabbage)
- Ninjin (carrot)
- Ringo (apple)
- Negi (onion)
- Broccoli

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

It was very impressive, as the areas which are usually empty were packed with veggies from all over the country.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo




Shichi-Go-San「七五三」is thus usually celebrated by boys of 3 and 5 and girls of 3 and 7.

You may wonder, how much is the kimono? Well it depends on quality, but rough figures are:
- ¥19,800 to ¥98,000 for 3 y.o. girl
- ¥39,800 to ¥200,000 for 5 y.o. boys
- ¥78,000 to ¥198,000 for 7 y.o. girls.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

A majority of girls have very professional hair & make-up. This seems to be the case when the kimono is rental (instead of own), having a total fee for styling hair, applying makeup & kimono ranks from ¥35,000 to ¥65,000.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

Also. You may notice that all kids are carrying long paper bags, some of them seem really eager to open them (only stopped by a parent's 恥ずかしい). These contain chitose ame 「千歳飴」 that literally means "thousand year candy" but is a long stick given to the kids on this very special day. It usually comes as a pair of white and pink sticks, the colors of good luck, in a paper bag bearing the image of a crane and a turtle, symbols of longevity, and images of pine trees and bamboo, the symbols of good luck.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

Hazukashii 「恥ずかしい」 is more than a new word in our vocabulary, it's the explanation of the entire Japanese culture. While it literally means "embarrassing" the concept is more like "it's embarrassing for others". This is very fascinating to me. Feels as if I understood where all this Japanese shyness came from. The hazukashii.

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo
恥ずかしくない!

As an example, a kid scratching his balls in public. What does the mum say to him?:
- (Spain) That's bad! Stop!
- (Japan) That's embarrassing for others! Stop!

shichi go san festival in Meiji Jingu - Harajuku - Tokyo

It goes beyond shyness, into respecting others which is the beauty of this culture, I think. It's not that you shouldn't do something because it's bad for you or forbidden, so you will be punished. It's just that you shouldn't do it, because it may disturb others. Respect is what I see, on the silent train, the calm people during natural disasters, the crowded streets, the lack of pick-pocketing, the shiny restrooms & clean parks, even after the Hanami. Something for the Westerners to bring home and practice full-heartedly.

PS: We saw more kids in Hiroshima, cuteness consistent throughout Japan.


Meiji-Jingu is very close to Meiji-Jingu Mae (Harajuku) station. Just cross the bridge and find the huge Torii, almost impossible to miss the entrance :)


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