In Japanese tradition, mid-November marks a rite of passage celebration for the youngest of Japanese. The centuries-old tradition was brought to Hawaiʻi with the influx of Japanese laborers in the late 1800s. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has this story.
Coming of age, in Japanese tradition, comes a lot earlier than one might think.
“I’m seven, and my name is Josiah Haruyoshi Kaneko.”
At a whopping 7-years-old Josiah and his 5-year-old brother Eli are being dressed in kimono in preparation for their Shinto blessing – an official rite of passage for young Japanese children.
“Their father, Josiah and Eli’s father did this when he was their age. And he’s now 36 (years-old),” says Grandma Naomi Kaneko.
The Kanekos are one of more than a hundred families celebrating Shichigosan at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi in Mōʻiliʻili.
”Shichigosan or 7-5-3, it’s a coming-of-age ceremony basically children turning or are already 3, 5, or 7 would come here or to one of the local shrines to get dressed up and blessed,” says Derrick Iwata, the center’s education and cultural specialist.
“So the blessing is for the children to have good health and a long life,” says Iwata.
In Japan, Shichigosan is celebrated every November 15 as a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children.
“This tradition actually stems from Meiji era Japan,” says Iwata, “And so when the immigrants came to Hawai’i and started having children they wanted to continue that.”
That was the case for 93-year-old Emiko Goya’s father who came to Hawai’i from Hiroshima. As a child growing up on the Big Island, Goya too dressed up in kimono and had her shichigosan blessing.
“I went through the same thing in Hilo. At the Japanese center in Hilo,” says Goya.
Today, Goya gets to see her great-grandsons Josiah and Eli, who we met earlier, do the same.
“For the grandparents, to see their children to be dressed up in traditional Japanese wear. I think it brings a sense of pride to them,” says Iwata.
“The hope is that they remember and they take the tradition with them as a form of blessing,” says Kaneko.