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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in Japan Series on JapanesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Japanese holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 21: the Shichi-Go-San Festival.
七五三 (Shichi-Go-San), meaning “the Seven-Five-Three Festival," is an annual event held to celebrate the growth of children turning seven, five, and three years old. In ancient times, many children died at a young age due to poverty, hunger, or poor hygiene. So people would pray at temples and shrines to express gratitude for their child's safe growth to the ages of seven, five, or three, as well as to request the continued safe growth of the child.
Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question: why are the ages of seven, five, and three celebrated?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Around November 15th, children worship at shrines and temples dressed in their best clothes—kimono worn only on special occasions. Boys dress in 羽織 (haori) and 袴 (hakama); girls dress in 着物 (kimono). For many girls, this is the first time in their lives that they get to experience wearing make-up, and it’s a happy time for many children. Thanks are given to God and Buddha for the healthy growth of the child, and prayers are also offered to request the child's future safety.
七五三 (Shichi-Go-San) is a major event for parents who take family photos featuring the well-dressed children; these pictures are often used later for New Year's cards given to friends and family. Many families have a selection of formal clothes of various colors and patterns. This often leads to pictures being taken in not just one, but two or three different sets of clothes.
On this day, children eat long, thin candy known as 千歳飴 (Chitose Ame). Why does it have a shape that’s hard for children to eat? It's because the candy represents the parents' wishes for their child to live a long life. Two sticks of 千歳飴 (Chitose Ame) come in a bag—one red and one white, since these are auspicious colors.
Here’s our fun fact for the day! Do you know when Japan first celebrated this festival widely? During the Edo period, 七五三 (Shichi-Go-San) was first celebrated on a grand scale. The shogun of the time, 徳川綱吉 (Tsunayoshi Tokugawa), prayed often for the health of his son, causing this custom to spread to the people and carry on today.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question: why are these ages celebrated?
Since ancient times, Japanese custom has celebrated the arrival of seven, five, and three years of age. At three, custom allows the child's hair to grow out; at five, the child can wear a 袴 (hakama) for the first time; and at seven, the child can wear the same style of 着物 (kimono) and 帯 (obi) that adults wear. As children progressed towards adulthood, each stage was celebrated along the way. Remnants of this can be seen in the modern day Seven-Five-Three Festival.
Well listeners, how was this lesson?
Did you learn something new?
In your country, when do you celebrate children's growth and good health?
Please leave us a comment telling us at JapanesePod101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!