Shichi-Go-San (七五三)

Shichi-Go-San (七五三) is a milestone event that celebrates the health and well-being of three, five, and seven year old children.  Traditionally, three-year-old boys and girls, five-year-old boys, and seven-year-old girls celebrate this event, however many parents nowadays will get all their children dressed up in kimono at the same time regardless of how old they are to get family photos.  The children get dressed in kimono, take photos, and visit Shinto shrines.  The actual date of shichi-go-san is November 15, but children often get dressed up and take photos in the month before this date.

In this article, I’ll outline all the items needed for each age group, and some of the special kitsuke rules for dressing children.

Three-Year-Old Girls

Note: Both boys and girls can participate in shici-go-san, however the boys kimono at three years old is identical (but smaller and oh so cute!) to a five-year-old boy.  Because of this, portion will cover the girls kituske only. 

1. Padding: a towel should be folded in thirds and wrapped around the waist.

The completed look for a three-year-old girl.

The completed look for a three-year-old girl.

2. Nagajuban (長襦袢): This juban does not have any sleeves.  The haneri is colorful and includes children’s patterns such as rabbits and toys.  The collar should be sitting right against the neck.  girls don’t lower their collars until they are ten-years old.

3. Kimono (着物): The kimono is brightly patterned with tucks in the shoulders.  sometimes, this kimono has an ohashori sewn in at the correct height to make it easier to get dressed.

4. Obi (帯): three-year-old girls do not wear an obi.  As a substitute, a shibori obi-age can be tied around the waist in place of an obi, but it is not necessary.

5. Hifu (被布): The hifu is the apron or overcoat.  Nowadays, it is worn exclusively by three-year-old girls.

Five-Year-Old Boys

Note: girls do not traditionally celebrate shichi-go-san when they are five years old.

1. Padding: One towel should be folded in thirds and wrapped around the waist.

A juban for five-year-old boys. The lack of sleeves makes it easier to dress a squirming child.

A juban for five-year-old boys. The lack of sleeves makes it easier to dress a squirming child.

2. Nagajuban (長襦袢):  This juban does not have any sleeves. The haneri for the boys is solid white or grey (unlike the girls).  The back of the collar should be sitting right against the neck.  The koshihimo should be tied as high as possible to keep the collars in place.

3. Kimono (着物): the kimono that this studio uses for the boys are a solid color with no patterns.  tucks are sewn into the shoulders.  The koshihimo should be tied as high as possible to keep the collars in place, while still remaining hidden underneath the obi.

The obi tied in an ichimonji musubi.

The obi tied in an ichimonji musubi.

4. Obi (帯):  The boys have a choice between a pre-tied obi and a regular (albeit child-sized obi).  If a regular obi is used, it should be tied in an ichimonji musubi (very similar to a chou-chou musubi but the obi is folded in half instead of three mountains). The height of the obi should be determined by measuring the length of the hakama first.  The hakama should reach to the child’s ankles.

These hakama are pre-tied. There is a snap sewn to the back of the cross and it snaps into place at the correct height. The straps pull tight and are tied at the back underneath the hakama.

These hakama are pre-tied. There is a snap sewn to the back of the cross and it snaps into place at the correct height. The straps pull tight and are tied at the back underneath the hakama.

5. Hakama (袴):  When dealing with kids, the more tricks you can use to make things easier, the better.  Hakama, like obi, can come in tsuke (pre-tied) forms as well as the regular version.  For the pre-tied version,the cross at the front is sewn into shape, the ties all come around the back to tie under the hakama and out of sight, and the cross has a snap on the back that attaches it to the hakama at the correct height.

6. Haori (羽織):  After putting on the haori, secure the haori himo, and fold the collar down in half at the back.

Here you can see the solid-coloured kimono, haori, haori himo, hamaka, and ken (the short sword)

Here you can see the solid-coloured kimono, haori, haori himo, hamaka, and ken (the short sword)

7. Ken (剣): The ken (short sword) is slipped into the hakama on the left side, and tilted so that the top is slanted to the center of the chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven-Year-Old Girls

Note: boys do not traditionally participate in shichi-go-san when they are seven years old.  I have the most pictures of this process because it is the most difficult. 

towels used as padding

towels used as padding

1. Padding: towels go across the chest and wrapped around the waist.

this nagajuban has no sleeves to make dressing easier.

This nagajuban has no sleeves to make dressing easier.

2. Nagajuban (長襦袢):  This juban does not have any sleeves, and the haneri (usually with cute, childlike motifs like rabbits) is already attached.  The collar of the juban should be flat against the neck.  Only when a girl turns ten does the collar drop down.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the kimono with a nii-juu age. About 1 cm of juban collar should be visible.

Here is the kimono with a nii-juu age. About 1 cm of juban collar should be visible.

3. Kimono (着物):  These small, child-sized kimono have some key differences from adult kimono, most notably that there are tucks sewn into the shoulders of the kimono, and the sleeves are furisode length. Here are some of the key things to remember when dressing a child.
(a) The koshihimo that secures the kimono is tied higher up on the body than on an adult kimono.  This gives the illusion of longer legs.
(b)About one centimeter of juban collar should be showing.
(c) The left side seam of the kimono should be running straight down.  It should not be pulled to the front.
(d) In order to match up the okumi seams, it is usually necessary to create a nii-juu age (a double ohashori).  This has the added benefit of moving all of the bulk of the kimono high enough so it will be hidden by the obi.

This is the back of the pre-tied obi before the bow is inserted. Folding up one corner gives it a nice look.

This is the back of the pre-tied obi before the bow is inserted. Folding up one corner gives it a nice look.

The bow should be high enough that the tips are visible over the shoulders.

The bow should be high enough that the tips are visible over the shoulders.

4. Tsuke obi (付け帯):  With children, it’s important to make everything as easy as possible, and this is especially true for the obi.  wrap the waist portion of the obi around the waist and match them at the back.  fold up the bottom corner of the obi to create an aesthetically appealing look, and insert the obi bow.  The top tips of the bow should be visible from the front over the shoulders.

Here is the shigoki tied at the back. The tails should be the same length.

Here is the shigoki tied at the back. The tails should be the same length.

5. Obijime (帯締め):  for such a formal occasion, a stuffed obijime is used.  For a two-toned obijime, the gold end should end up on the left side of the child, and the knot should be centered with the cross of the juban and kimono collars.  Since this is a celebratory occasion, both tassels should be pointing up.

6. Obiage (帯揚げ):  A shibori obiage is always used, and fancy ties are encouraged.  My teacher has developed a unique way of creating a flower in the obiage.

7. Shigoki (扱き):  the shigoki is a red scarf that is wrapped around the bottom of the obi.  It should be folded first in thirds, then in half.  With the edges pointing up,  match up the bottom of the obi with the folded edge of the shigoki. Wrap it around the back, and tie in a nice big bow on the left hip.

Here is the completed front view.

Here is the completed front view.

8. Hakoseko (筥迫): This decorative touch should be slipped into the collars of the kimono above the obi.

9. Sensu (扇子): The fan should be placed on the left side behind the obijime.  The top of the fan should be angled inwards.

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2 thoughts on “Shichi-Go-San (七五三)

  1. I am so glad I found your blog. I just moved from the US to Japan this past October with my husband and two little girls. My oldest daughter turns three this July, and ever since I found out the shichigosan festival existed, I’ve been using way too much free time compulsively comparison-shopping three-year-old kimono. And giggling, because it’s all so stinking cute. This has snowballed into me looking up lots of other kimono, for grown-ups, just to stare at. And I’m starting to realize that maybe I just like kimono? Like maybe a lot? Anyway, I’d love to correspond with you and get some advice about different aspects of toddler (and grown-up) kimono, but here’s a question off the top of my head: if a hifu is what little girls wear instead of an obi, could a haori be worn over a hifu, or would that just be weird? Not that I’m planning on throwing a haori on my daughter, per se. I’m just curious.

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    • I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog! I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have. My email is in the “contact” section, or I guess I could just put it here too 😉 readysetkimono@gmail.com
      As for your question, I’ve never heard of or seen a haori worn over a hifu. The only haori that I could think of that could fit a three-year-old are those designed for young boys for their shichi-go-san and they’re often covered with boy related motifs like eagles and arrows. If you’re worried about your daughter getting cold, well, kimono can get very warm very quickly, especially indoors. Depending on your climate you may not need anything else. If it’s just for fashion, personally I would skip it.

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