In Japan, there is a festival that parents celebrate and wish for their children’s growth called Shichi-Go-San (七五三). Children dress up in kimonos and visit a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. Children also look forward to Chitose-ame (Thousand-year Candy). It is a long and thin stick of red and white candy on which lucky symbols of cranes and turtles, and shochikubai (pine, bamboo and plum trees) are printed. Chitose-ame expresses parents’ wish for their child to live a long life.
Shichi-Go-San is held on November 15 for children of three, five and seven years of age (or more exactly, for boys of three and five and girls of three and seven) as an old tradition. The ceremony of Kamioki is held for boys and girls of three, and the children are allowed to grow their hair which have been shaved or short after the ritual. Hakamagi is the ceremony for boys of five, and parents dress them in a hakama (a Japanese male skirt) for the first time. Obi-toki is the ceremony for girls of seven, and they wear a sash belt called obi (the outer belt of a kimono) for the first time. Obi-toki is also called Himo-otoshi, which is the ceremony cutting the waist cord tied around a kimono to fit the new obi.
In the past, the growth of children was everyone’s happiness because infant mortality had been high until modern breakthroughs in medical technologies. This is why Shichi-Go-San ceremonies have been held on a grand scale in Japan.
In Honmon Butsuryu Shu, we hold a Buddhist service called Shichi-Go-San Seicho Orei Sankei on the Sunday closest to November 15 instead of those Japanese traditional rituals above. Seicho literally means “growth,” Orei means to “thank the Gohonzon,” and Sankei is “visiting a temple.” Parents thank the Gohonzon for the growth of children and pray for their good health, academic achievements, the succession of the light of HBS faith, and so on in Shichi-Go-San Seicho Orei Sankei.