The other day, while out at a local shopping centre, I noticed a well-dressed family. Mum and Dad were in smart suits, and their young daughter was wearing a beautiful red kimono with her hair specially arranged for the occasion. They were on their way to the photographer to have a family photo taken to celebrate Shichi-Go-San (literally “Seven-Five-Three”).
Shichi-Go-San is a traditional rite of passage in Japan for girls aged three and seven and for boys aged five. November 15th is the actual date, but parents take their children to a Shinto shrine any time between the end of October and November to pray for the child’s health and prosperity.
Girls wear a special kimono and boys a hakama (traditional wide trousers) with a long haori (jacket). The children receive a bag of long thin candy called “chitose ame” (thousand-year candy) representing long life. Most families also take a commemorative photo which will often be used for their New Year card a couple of months later.
We know that Jesus took time out of his busy schedule to place his hands on and pray for little children. In a Japanese church where we served, they held an annual children’s blessing service in the autumn. Most children did not dress up, but we took time in the service to thank God for them and to pray for them. We organised some fun activities, took a photo, and gave them each a bag of sweets to take home.
Like many aspects of Japanese culture, Shichi-Go-San involves a religious ritual. Christian parents do not take their children to a shrine to pray for them. Missing out on this tradition can leave them with a feeling of having not properly celebrated a milestone in their child’s life. Having a blessing service at the church gave them a helpful alternative. It also gave the church an opportunity to invite other local children—to explain that Jesus loves them and to pray for them too.
By Lorna, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- For Japanese children, that they will have the opportunity to hear of God’s love for them and that true blessing comes from becoming his children.
- For the Japanese church, that they will seek opportunities to be relevant to the culture around them.
- For missionaries, that we will grow in understanding of Japanese people and the culture where we serve.