Heian Shrine, Kyoto (京都 平安神宮）
Futarasan Shrine, Utsunomiya (宇都宮 二荒山神社）
November 15 is Shichigosan, a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children. Shichigosan literally means seven (shichi), five (go), and three (san). In most regions around Japan, boys and girls aged three, boys aged five, and girls aged seven traditionally visit a local shrine or a famous shrine with their parents and/or their grandparents. Most girls are dressed up in kimonos and boys in haori jackets and hakama trousers. In the old days healthy growth up to three years, five years or seven years old was not a matter that was taken for granted – it was a blessed, thankful matter that provided a good cause for cerebration. The odd numbers were held for auspicious.
Chitose-ame is a sweet candy associated with Shichigosan. The candy is shaped like a stick and comes in a bag that carries illustrations of two animals, cranes and turtles – both are regarded as symbol of long life (crane; 1000 years, turtle; 10,000 years). The candy and the bag are both expressions of parents' wish that their children lead long, prosperous lives.
The annual celebration is said to have originated with the fifth anniversary of the 5th Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi(1646-1709). In those days boys and girls who were born at aristocratic and samurai families stopped getting their hair cut short and were allowed to grow long when they reached the age of three. 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. By the Edo period these practices spread to commoners, who began visiting shrines to have prayers offered by priests.