A family of boys poses in traditional attire for photos at the Japanese Cultural Center’s Shichi-go-san event.
Oahu organizations offering services for Shichi-go-san, the annual Japanese rite-of-passage celebration, are noticing an increase in demand as COVID-19 concerns decline. Read more
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Oahu organizations offering services for Shichi-go-san, the annual Japanese rite-of-passage celebration, are noticing an increase in demand as COVID-19 concerns decline.
Places like the Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha and the Japanese Cultural Center are already fully booked with reservations, both of which sold out in a matter of days.
“2019 was our last (Shichi-go-san) event,” said Nate Gyotoku, president and executive director of the Japanese Cultural Center. “I think there were a lot of families that either missed their 5-year-old one, and this is the last chance for (the age of) 7 because it’s been two years.”
The Japanese Cultural Center found its 60 available reservations fully booked after two days, while Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha found its 200 availabilities fully booked after eight.
“Reverend canceled some of our monthly services to accommodate the children,” said Irene Takizawa, a volunteer at Kotohira Jinsha. “We were able to open up a few more slots … but we have a long waitlist that we can’t fulfill. We feel badly, but it is the times and we would like to stay safe.”
Shichi-go-san celebrations are said to have originated in the Heian period, back when aging past infancy was considered a significant milestone.
The occasion traditionally takes place Nov. 15, when families celebrate children ages 7, 5 and 3 by dressing them in kimono, having their pictures taken and having them blessed by Shinto priests.
The occasion’s coming-of-age traditions also include keeping children’s heads shaved until the age of 3. Boys who reached 5 years old would be clothed in male trouser kimono for the first time, while 7-year-old girls would finally be allowed to wear a large sash, called an obi, over their kimono.
Places like the Japanese Cultural Center and Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha offer complete services that include a provided kimono, a Shinto blessing and professional photos.
Other places offer individual services, such as The Flower Shop in Waikiki, where Shichi-go-san bookings include hair and makeup, a kimono and a professional photography session. Shinto priest blessings also may be booked at most shrines, year-round.
Compared with Japan, people in Hawaii are often more relaxed in following the specific traditions, said the Rev. Jun Miyasaka of Izumo Taishakyo Mission.
Some choose to forgo wearing a kimono to their blessing, while others book their service outside the ages of 7, 5 or 3, he said.
Some people have attached new meanings to the celebration, such as using it to mark their child’s passage from preschool to kindergarten, and then to elementary school, Takizawa said. Even those not of Japanese descent have come to celebrate Shichi-go-san, she said.
Considering Hawaii’s multicultural atmosphere, Miyasaka and Takizawa are both happy to see these adaptations.
Miyasaka hopes that the tradition will continue in Hawaii for many years, further sharing Japanese culture in a way that is fun and meaningful.
Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.
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