Friday, January 6, 2012

May The Force Be With You and Your Photographer - Shichi-Go-San

15th August, 2010 - In Japan, there is a celebration for just about everything, and one of the more popular ones (for young families) is the 3-5-7 celebration. Well, it's not so much a celebration as an opportunity to spend some money down at the photography studio (which I hasten to add are not particularly cheap in Japan... but we don't have a price comparison in Adelaide). It is a time when all young padawans must learn to harness the force, and all Jedi parents must learn to suffer the pains of child photography sessions with a smile.

Actually, the celebration Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) does date back to antiquity (i.e. before I can find any real references - though in reality it was in the Edo period some time, after 1600AD). It comes from Chinese traditions of uneven numbers being auspicious, and also a good smattering of Japanese aesthetics, to celebrate special or sacred years of childhood. From the survival of early childhood (at 3 yo... which was likely no mean feat), to the leaving of infanthood (at 7 yo...). In fact the child's spirit was said to belong to the gods until age 7, at which time the child would formally be added to the "population books" and ujigami-sama. Ok... if it sounds like I know a lot, I don't. This is from Japan: How We Breathe and How Our Hearts Beat.

At the age of 3, the tradition entailed that children changed their hairstyles, wearing it on top. Well L-kun has never had much hair to do much with, so a costume change was going to have to suffice. We took him down to the photography studio - and spent a good couple of hours there. We only went with 2 costume changes (a traditional kimono and a western suit)... though I'm sure there were countless other styles we could have tried.

I think he looked particularly dashing in the suit - with...

Or without jacket....

And he was such a ham away from the professional's camera. But I have to admit that in front of the real camera, it was a different story.... and no, we couldn't bring in our camera to the studio area (just the changing area... which is a little strange). In fact, he developed an instantaneous affectation of sticking his tongue (unconsciously) out the side of his mouth. He'd never done this before - but today, he couldn't stop himself. I guess this was a stress reaction... even though the photographers at the studio were great and very friendly. It certainly is a testament to the professionalism, and the brute inner strength that the photographers (and their assistants) have... and I'm sure that L-kun wasn't the most difficult by a long, long way.

So the following photos are taken from the supplied cd (of I think 9 out of the total of 100 photos that were taken). Speaking of stress - it's very stressful having to down-select photos from a studio (something I'm assuming they are well aware of, and depend financially upon). The package that they offer is a number of photos in an album, a calendar, and a number small photos. All good presents for the grandparents.

Note - I do not hold the copyright to these photos - which is held of course by the studio - but I hope this constitutes reasonable use. Doesn't it?

Anyway - L-kun was 3 years of age at this point... and now he's 4. We're already planning his next visit for his 5th year. May the force (and the savings plan) truly be with us!....


  1. L-Kun looks cute all dressed up and these will be great memories for the years ahead. Good luck with the plans to head back for his 5th year. It will be great if you could continue the tradition :)

    Japan Australia

  2. J_A, it's a good time, and children at that age are always cute in photo sessions (even when they're being difficult). Can't wait to get back for the next trip... but too far away!

  3. Good title and good photos!

    Looking at my old albums with Katya, I realized how important old photos and memories are.

  4. I thought 3 and 7 for girls and only 5 for boys. No?

    1. Thanks Anonymous, like many things in Japan, it sort of depends on the region... I know it's often the case that boys do 3 and 5; and girls do 3 and 7.... But in Sapporo it's pretty uniform for all three years.