I suppose when your three year old son asks, “What are we going to do today Kevin?” The best answer is not “The same thing we do everyday Logan. Try to take over the world.” I say this only because at the age of three children should be expected to set and meet attainable goals. Conquering the world at such an age may just be too lofty a goal for one so small. And if we did manage to do so would he really know what to do with such great power? No, one so young should not rise so high so early. Instead we set our mind to conquering kindergarten, and that is just what we did on Thursday morning. It was a perfect start to our Shichi-Go-San celebration.
Shichi-Go-San is a festival celebrated by families who have young children ages seven, five and three. In fact that is what the name of the festival means, seven, five, three. It is a minor festival that families seem to celebrate individually. Families with a child aged three, five or seven will go to a Shinto Shrine to pray for the health, safety and happiness of their child. Sometimes the child is dressed in a traditional kimono while other times the child is dressed in their best suit of clothes. What we have seen here is that girls tend to be dressed in an elaborately beautiful kimono; while boys tend to wear more western clothing like slacks and a sweater, or a suit. While at the shrine the family will pray for their child and perhaps have the priest say a prayer of blessing over the child. The child will then be given special candy to commemorate the day.
I have wanted to visit Logan’s school and Thursday was the perfect opportunity. I had already taken the day off of work in order to celebrate the shichi-go-san holiday and now I would be able to go and watch him play at school too. We walked to school together in the morning. Logan led the way holding my hand much of the way. We got to school and Logan began by putting all of his school things in their proper places. Then he began to play with his friends. He started the day by playing house with some of the other boys and girls. They all had a great time bringing plates and cups over to me from the kitchen. I would then ask them, “Kore wa nan desu ka?” (what’s this?) They would then tell me, cake, sushi, tea or whatever it was that I was eating or drinking. I thought that it was hilarious when I asked one of the boys what was in the cup he just handed me and he replied, “Biru.” (beer) My personal inclination was that maybe ten o’clock in the morning was still a tad early to be drinking a beer, not to mention the fact that we were at school. But I drank it non the less and I even told him that it was delicious. We continued to play house with students bringing me food and me asking what it was then eating it. They brought such peculiarities as lemon juice, orange beer and corn soup. We played until it was clean up time.
Next we all had to gather for circle time. I can not decide if the sound of twenty-five preschoolers screaming/singing is cute or horrific. Right now I am leaning toward cute because hearing all of those little tykes belting out the Anpanman March was enough to bring a smile to my face. The kiddies sang two or three songs. Jenny and I watched while three of Logan’s friends all jockeyed for position trying to sit next to him. They would move their chair to be right next to his. Then when they got up to sing another student would come and move the first chair out of the way and place their chair next to Logan. It was quite comical to see them moving the competition out of the circle only to have their chair moved in turn.
After circle time it was time to head off to banana room for a special nutrition presentation. We got to learn all about the three food groups and how they work together to give us plenty of energy to play and have fun at school. What? Did I misspeak? You did not know that there were only three food groups? Alas, yes here in Japan there are only three food groups. There is the fruit and veggie group, the dairy and meat group, and there is the grain and rice group. I thought that there was another too, but I was wrong. The teachers had a story about pigs that ran out of energy because they did not eat a balanced diet. Now when Logan needs a bit of convincing to eat his veggies we remind him about the pigs that did not have enough energy to play at school. This usually does the trick and he responds with a healthy, “That’s OK I’m at home now. I’ll just take a nap.”
After the nutrition presentation it was time to go outside and play on the playground. We had a lot of fun playing. The children all wanted to show me all the fun things that they have to play with on the playground. We first went over to the sandbox where they taught me how to dig in the sand. Then it was off to climb on the jungle gym. There were many shouts of, “Rogan no Otto-san kochira wa” (Logan’s dad over here) We climbed, ran, dug and swang all over that playground. I then went over to where there was a group of kids playing in the sand and I ordered a couple of hamburgers and a coke from their “restaurant.” They had a great time making food for me. Kids would come running across the playground with a plate of sand to bring me a piece of “cake.” We had a great time playing and I especially enjoyed meeting Logan’s teacher and all of the boys and girls in his class.
After school we decided to go and get some lunch. We decided that as it was a nice day that we would get some boxed lunches and go and eat picnic style. We walked to our favorite bento shop and ordered. We then wandered toward the mountain. We found a nice spot near the canal at the base of the mountain to eat our lunch. It was a great spot to eat our food. The weather was pleasant and the view was nice. The leaves on the trees along the canal are just starting to change color so we were able to appreciate the fall colors as we ate.
After lunch we headed off to Hachiman-jingu. The shrine was all prepared for the Shichi-go-san celebration. They had placed an inflatable Anpanman, Baikinman, and Dokinchan near the Shrine to encourage families to come to the shrine for the festival. Logan and I went up to the shrine to say a prayer and ring the giant bell. I took a moment to pray for Logan’s health and happiness. Then we went down to the information booth where we got some chitoseame. Chitoseame is thousand year candy. Thousand year candy is given to children on shichigosan because it is believed to ensure long life. The package is decorated with a crane and a turtle which are both symbols of long life here in Japan. We opted not to have the priest say a blessing over Logan because we learned that the blessing would cost about fifty dollars. It was actually one of our Japanese friends who said that she thought that the price was very expensive.
We decided to cap off our fun day with a piece of cake. We went over to a cake shop near the shrine for a couple of pieces of cake. We got a caramel cake and green tea desert and went outside to eat. Jenny walked over to the vending machine and bought a nice hot bottle of milk tea and we sat on top of a rock wall eating our cake and drinking tea. It made me laugh when we were in the cake shop ordering cake Logan had said that he did not want any cake and that he was full. When we got outside and Jenny and I were eating. Logan suddenly decided that he did want some cake after all. I found it comical that he was so matter of fact about the idea that he did not want cake. Then the words came out of his mouth once we were outside and eating, “I do. I do want some cake.”
We walked home and spent the rest of the afternoon resting and enjoying the time together. We had a good day and the day made me eternally grateful for my family. Watching Logan play with his friends was a lot of fun. It made me glad to see him act like a little boy. At one point when he was at school he was using the hose to fill a tub of water when he moved the steam of water and got his friend’s shoe wet. I noticed it happen and I made him turn off the water. He then had to apologize and set her shoes in the sun to dry. Though I was not happy that he had gotten her shoe wet it did make me glad that he is learning to get along with others. He did need me to help him apologize to the little girl, but once he did she was not so mad at him any more. I am glad that we took the opportunity to go and celebrate 七五三. We had a good time and I pray that my little boy will have a long and happy life.
七 shichi (seven)
五 go (five)
三 san (three)