Monday, December 07, 2009

Shichi-Go-San at Meiji-Jingu

This post got away from me, and I've been meaning to write about my November 15th visit to Meiji Shrine (Meiji-Jingu) for a few weeks now...

Japan's largest torii at Meiji Shrine

The weather was perfect on this particular November Sunday--according to locals, probably the last day like it this year. On my visit to this important Japanese landmark, I was fortunate to stumble upon Shichi-Go-San festivities and even a Shinto wedding.

Meiji Shrine is located in Shibuya, Tokyo on the grounds encompassing an iris garden that the Empress Shoken liked to visit. The shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, and it was first built in 1920. The shrine was subsequently bombed and destroyed during WWII, and it was rebuilt in 1958. 

Shichi-Go-San (literally "Seven-Five-Three") is a traditional festival (dating to the Heian period, 794-1185)commonly held on November 15 to celebrate the of Japanese children into middle childhood. The numbers 3, 5 and 7 are said to be lucky, and they correspond to special ages in a Japanese child's life. In the past, age 3 marked the time when children were old enough to grow out their shaved hairdos. At age 5, boys could finally don hakama pants, while at age 7 girls became old enough to wear an obi with their kimonos. Proud Japanese parents dress their children in their finest and the family ventures to the local shrine. 

Posing for Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) 

These days the festival has taken on a modern twist, turning into something of a fashion show complete with adoring photographers and paparazzi--actually, they're foreign tourists and local "Camera Clubs" made up of elderly folks with brand new SLR cameras. Here's where I got my first taste of the national pose of Japan: flashing the peace sign. Something of a reflex now, I continually find myself posing for pictures with a peace sign...

My good fortune at Meiji Shrine didn't stop with the Shichi-Go-San festival either. As I was about to enter the main shrine complex, I almost walked straight into a Shinto-style wedding taking place. Photos follow in the slideshow below.

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