7-5-3 / by Jim Hathaway

Yanaka Mamas T.jpg

7-5-3, Shichi-go-san is celebrated in November.  You see little girls dressed bright as Easter eggs in kimono in shrines around Tokyo, and around the country. Little boys as well, in suits or kimono.

Girls are celebrated twice, at age three and seven. Boys at age five. They dress up with their family and visit the shrine. The local priest gives them a blessing, waves his wand of paper, gives them a little sake too I think. They buy long hard candies in colorfull sacks for themselves and their friends, though nobody seems to like that candy anymore. Like many things traditional, it has steeper competition for the children's favor.

Putting on a kimono is not a simple thing. Some touriss come to Asakusa and buy a chinese bathrobe and think its a kimono. Its not the same thing at all. There are layers and belts and belts and belts and an obi, the big wide top belt, to tie. It takes some skill, some practice.  

My wife didn't feel up to the task when our first daughter turned three, so we went next door to Mrs. Seki, who wrapped and tied her up.  We all walked cross Yanaka to Suwa temple. It was a long walk, especially for a little girl in tabi and zori, the traditional footwear. We moved slowly. 

There were more of the kimono grandmothers then, short gray old women in gray kimono with  full white housewife aprons on top.  Every old lady we encountered stopped up and retied Yuki's kimono.  I began to wonder what was going on. The first one that did it confused me as I was pretty sure that Mrs. Seki had done it right. Then ten steps further along the second one made me wonder because I was pretty sure that if Mrs. Seki hadn't done a proper job, the old gal ten steps back must have set it right. After the fifth or sixth old lady stopped us to insist a retie I realized that there was nothing wrong with the way it had been tied. They just all wanted to get their heads on my cute little daughter and give her a squeeze.