OK – It’s no mystery that Japan has a lot of shrines. A LOT. In fact, there is a small Shinto shrine right around the corner from my apartment! You can find them everywhere, often in unexpected places. My favorite shrines to find are the extremely tiny ones… so small, if you blink you will miss them! A lot of small shrines are tucked into any spare nook on the street. It’s a cool mix of modern Japan and older culture! Shichi-Go-San
I love checking out any shrine I find because they are all unique. The outside of a shrine is interesting enough, but the bigger shrines have a main building that is usually closed. Priests are not usually there either, except on specific holidays. I was so curious about what was inside those buildings…
Then I got lucky! A Shinto children’s holiday came on November 15th called Shichi-Go-San. Shichi-Go-San literally means seven-five-three. Children of this age are appreciated on this day for growing up healthy. Usually, parents take their children to their local Shinto shrine and have the priest pray for a healthy life and chase away any evil spirits that could harm them in the future. It’s really a sight to see, with the children dressed in traditional kimono. Shichi-Go-San has a beautiful purpose and I loved the fact that they celebrated their children’s health and safety!
Shichi-Go-San fell on a weekday this year, so my school decided to take all of the three to five year olds to our local Shinto shrine to do the rituals. Since most of the parents have long working hours, this was convenient for them so that they could celebrate on the day. They later went with their families on the weekend. I was sooo excited though! I would get to see the inside of a big shrine and witness a Shinto ritual!
We headed on about a 15 minute walk to the shrine and it was extremely stressful! All the kids were holding hands with their buddies, but ushering around 60 three to five year olds through the street was not easy. I kept thinking to myself that this would never happen in the United States because parents would freak out! We stopped any time a car would come but I was always on high stress. To get to the shrine, we had to go up these very steep steps for quite awhile, another “oh my gosh” moment for me with so many little ones. Shichi-Go-San was going to give me a glimpse of something special though, so I did my best.
We made it though! We had a nice bento lunch (which I blogged about earlier here) and then started a mini lesson on etiquette at a Shinto shrine. The priest was so kind and really reached out to me as a foreigner – he even gave me a Shinto amulet as a gift.
Interested in what happened next? Watch out for part two where I’ll be talking about the actual Shinto ritual for Shichi-Go-San.