In past Novembers, you might have seen young children dressed up in adorable kimono while visiting a shrine with their families.

Celebrated on November 15 every year, Shichigosan (literally means "seven-five-three") is a traditional ceremony in Japan to show appreciation for the healthy growth of children and to pray for their good health and happiness in the future. The celebration is given to girls age three and seven and to boys age five. Interestingly, seven, five, and three are the numbers that are considered lucky in other countries in East Asia such as China.

Shichigosan cannot be celebrated without chitose-ame, long stick candies colored in red or white. Because of its length, Chitose-ame represents longevity and is considered a lucky item by which to wish the child's longer growth and life. In addition to traditional red and white colors, chitose-ame that features popular characters are also available these days.

When visiting the shrine for shichigosan celebration, children are traditionally dressed in formal kimono, which are haori and hakama for boys and kimono and iwai-obi for girls. However, suits and dresses are becoming more popular and accepted today. Many families also choose to visit the shrine on weekends before or after November 15 rather than on the exact day. While the shichigosan ceremony is gradually adopting modern customs into its tradition, the purpose of the ceremony, which is for parents to ask for their child's healthy growth, has never changed over generations. For many Japanese people, it is a heart-warming, favorite seasonal scene to watch adorable children beautifully dressed up with chitose-ame in hand.

During November, an annual festive market called tori-no ichi (rooster fair) is open at various locations in Tokyo and other surrounding areas throughout the Kanto region. Often called otori-sama by locals, tori-no ichi began its tradition during the Edo period as a ritual to celebrate the year's harvest. The event gradually changed its purpose and has become an event where people come to shrines and pray for good luck and successful business.

At tori-no ichi, many vendors sell a special ornament called engi kumade (good luck rake), which is decorated with colorful charms that represent gold, silver, and other fortunes. Many business owners purchase a kumade, which is believed to help them gather fortune, and bring it back to the shrine next year to replace with a bigger one with hope to receive more luck and success in their business. It is a customary scene that kumade vendors and customers exchange loud calls saying katta (means "I'll buy it" or "I won") and maketa ("I'll give you a discount" or "I lost") to negotiate the price. When they come to an agreement, the business is completed by performing together sanbonjime, a spirited hand-clapping ceremony.

Tori-no ichi takes place at many shrines throughout Kanto, including the large-scale ones at Otori Jinja Shrine (Asakusa) and Hanazono Jinja Shrine (Shinjuku). At the fair, street vendors sell a variety of items and invite visitors to enjoy foods, drinks, and shopping until late at night. Some fairs are open for 24 hours all through the night.

According to the calendar, tori-no ichi will be held on November 12 (Thu.) and 24 (Tue.) this year. Take this opportunity to reflect and appreciate past safe year and make a wish for progress in a coming new year.

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