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Shichigosan, or 7-5-3. In Japanese tradition, girls who are ages 3 and 7 and boys who are 5 get dressed up in kimono (Or nice western clothing) and head off to the shrine for a blessing. It's a bit in the way of asking for good health, luck, and fortune along with the kami's protection for the child. Of course, in modern Japan, there's less actual religious feeling behind it and far more "We do this because we are Japanese". It's also one of the few times that Japanese will wear kimono.
Yes, they are beautiful, but so are tuxes and ballgowns and most Americans don't wear them everyday either.
Shichigosan also makes the formal end of babyhood, going into childhood. Girls got to wear obi, the formal sashes on their kimono and boys... get to put on PANTS!
This ceremony is actually rather old, there's a mention of it in Tale of Genji, the worlds first novel, and for some reason it's translated in that book as "The First Putting on of Pants". This has been a non-stop source of amusement for my family. For me, it just sounds silly. For Beloved and Makoto, it's even better as pants do not refer to trousers in Japan, but underpants. And of course, every 5-year-old boy thinks that any mention of underwear is humorous.
Of course, the pants themselves are not what we back in the US are used to, but hakama, the traditional divided trousers used by men over their kimono.
Any case, the whole thing is a big deal, and of course Beloved's parents came up to see their grandson to under go this, bringing with them PANTS! The kimono that Makoto wore was one that he had since his birth, and indeed was taken to the same shrine as a baby in it to be presented to the kami. This time however, he got to wear the kimono and the pants. Hikaru in the meanwhile got to wear... a tie!
He was not impressed.
Still, while it took a while to get all the ties done up right and things jiggered into the right areas, and we had to endure a cold shrine, it was a nice ceremony and both boys came off looking good, Makoto in his kimono and Hikaru in his tie. Makoto came away from the shrine with a charm to protect him, an arrow to protect the house, a coloring book with Japanese myths in it, and the traditional bag of candy. Hikaru just came away confused, but since he'll be doing this in three years time, maybe he'll remember this day with his brother.
If I had just one regret about 7-5-3, it might be that everything for this came from Beloved and Beloved's family. Not, let me state, that this is a particularly bad thing, but it was one where Makoto's American side was more or less buried by his Japanese one. The only thing that was different from every other child at the shrine was that his last name was very much not Japanese. I guess I just wish that I could have had him had something from the US.
Still wasn't going to allow my mother to send over a tartan from my step-father's Scottish clan however. There's staying true to your roots and then there is horrible culture and fashion clashes.