7-5-3 Ceremony (Shichi-Go-San)

Michelle turned 3 in 1999. It's a magical age in any culture, but in Japan, children of this age have a special ceremony on November 13/14. Ostensibly, the ceremony is a presentation to the shinto dieties, asking for __________.

The shinto ceremony is supposed to take place at the family's shrine, generally in the neighborhood. But many families go to more prestigous shrines further afield, particularly since many 'modern' families do not have a 'family' shrine.

We don't have a shrine (or even a buddhist temple!) on Rokko Island, so we went to Yuzuriha Shrine in nearby Mikage for her Shichi-go-san ceremony.

But first there were preparations to make and places to go....

First stop...the beauty parlor. This one was in the Kobe Bay Sheraton Hotel, here on Rokko Island. Events like Shichi-Go-San are big business at beauty parlors, and they are well stocked with all the necessary items. When we arrived, they showed Yoko a catalog of hair styles, and Yoko picked one.

Then, they set to work on Michelle...

Thirty minutes later, during which Michelle stayed very still and quiet (probably in shock), this was the result.

After the hair was done up, they pulled out a large stock of hair doo-dads (ancient Japanese term, no translation, but basically a bunch of soft colored curls of textured cloth, bangles, pins, etc.) and Yoko picked out several.

Then Michelle and Yoko went into the kimono changing room, where Michelle was wrapped, trussed and shod to within an inch of her short life. (Steve wasn't allowed in, so there are no pictures of this process.)

Since Michelle was now unable to walk back home without undoing hours of primping and trussing, I picked her up in the car, loaded up everyone else, and off we went to a nearby shrine.

The obi consists of several sash- or belt-like pieces. Michelle's is a simple yellow sash wrapped and tied in a bow, with an elaborately folded gold affair on top.

If Michelle's kimono looks vaguely familiar, it is because it was made from the items she wore at her Omiyamairi Ceremony shortly after her birth.

The slippers, tabi (sock-like foot coverings), obi (sash) and other items were bought for the occasion. These slippers had bells in the heels, which delighted Michelle.

These young girls, dressed in traditional red and white outfits, are called miko. They perform all manner of temple chores, from helping the priests at official functions and ceremonies to selling charms and other 'souvenirs' at the temple store.

As the mother, Yoko was required to put on her kimono, a much less colorful one than Michelle's.

Here, Yoko is 'registering' for the 7-5-3 ceremony at the shrine's entrance. You do not need to 'belong' to the shrine, nor do you need to make a reservation in advance -- just show up, sign in, and wait your turn.

An international ceremony is held at Ikuta Shrine in Sannomiya. It is quite popular with the foreign community.

This short QuickTime clip should have loaded by now. It shows the beginning part of her presentation.  

A family portrait.

A professional photographer had set up a studio inside the shrine office and was doing a brisk business among other shrine visitors. But at something like 8,000 yen per photo, the service was not cheap. On the other hand, with many families laying out as much as 250,000 yen or more for a child's kimono, accessories and hair styling, it is probably wise to have a pro take his best shot. You never know what your own photos will look like until well after the fact, when it is too late to take more. Yoko, who generally dreads those moments when Steve unholsters his camera, was especially insistent that he take lots of pictures at the shrine. And if they hadn't turned out, Steve today would likely be singing in a different part of the choir.

Calvin and Brian had no part in the ceremony, but they had fun playing in grounds of the shrine. After the ceremony, Michelle received a bag of gifts, mainly candy and other snacks. Her brothers also received small gift bags.

Traditionally, the grounds of the shrine (and temple) were also the neighborhood park. These grounds were usually expansive and full of trees. The conventional 'stand-alone' western-style park is a relatively new addition to the urban scene.

One last photo of the happy child and and obaa-chan (grandma).
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