November 15th is officially the day in Japan where girls who are aged 3 and 7 and boys who are aged 5 dress in kimono and go to a shrine to pray for health and long life. We jumped the gun a little and went today - along with quite a few others! According to one homepage I read 7-5-3 began in medieval times when the samurai and aristocratic families did the following: Boys and girls aged three stopped getting their hair shaven and were allowed to grow their hair.
-Boys aged five put on hakama for the first time in public.
-Girls aged seven began using obi sash to tie their kimono, instead of cords.
As time went by the "commoners" also started to take part in the rituals and today almost all Japanese children "celebrate" this day.
Things have changed a little over time and the standard thing to do these days is to get dressed in a kimono (easier said than done - especially for girls!) and then get your hair done and makeup done before going to a photo studio to get photos taken. Boys wear a "hakama" over the top of their kimono, which is like a big long skirt.
After the photos we went to the shrine to take part in a special ceremony to pray for the children's good health and long life. Unfortunately there was a wedding ceremony just at the time we went and the wait was going to be too long so we just prayed and went home! The only thing the children were disappointed about was the fact that they missed out on getting some more of the long "chitoseame" - which is basically a long stick of sugar... which translates into "thousand year candy". It comes in a lovely long bag which has pictures of cranes and turtles on it - of course symbolising long life again. At least after today we should have ensured that our children will still be around and well long enough to look after us in our old age!