• Elisse Carma

Shichi-Go-San and Miyamairi with the Yamamotos

The Yamamotos' boys, Roma and Taiga participated in the Shichi-Go-San ritual in November.

Shichi-Go-San is a festival day and a traditional rite of passage for Japan, celebrating a child's growth and well-being.

Shichi-Go-San literally means 7-5-3. When a boy is 5 or 7, and when a girl is 3 or 7, they go to the shrine in Kimono to drive out evil spirits and wish for a happy life.

The Yamamotos also celebrated Miyamairi for their new baby, Seren. This is when the parents and grandparents take their newborn baby to the Shinto shrine to thank the deities for the birth and to have the priest bless or pray for the child to have health and happiness. This is kind of like a Christian infant baptism.

Japanese families traditionally hire photographers to take posed pictures of their children in Kimonos for Shichi-Go-San. As a foreigner and as someone who likes to think outside the box, Ellie asked me to document the day in my photojournalistic style.

I was giddy with excitement about this opportunity! I love learning about religions and customs, and I really loved being present for the ceremony. Even better, I loved documenting such a unique and special day for the Yamamotos. How many documentary family photographers can say they've documented Shichi-Go-San or Miyamairi??? And how many families have this day documented in this candid style for their posterity to see what the day was actually like, to relive the experience? For so many reasons, this was a really special shoot.

We did a special 3 hour documentary shoot for the occasion. I was able to document the preparation process--dressing in kimonos, walking around the shrine, washing their hands.

The baby was dressed in this special Miyamairi robe that goes around the mother's shoulder and drapes the baby in red. What a relief, not to have to dress a baby in a kimono, eh?

While I wasn't permitted to take pictures inside the shrine when the priest was actually blessing the children, I was able to be present to hear the chants and see the beautiful room and to see how impressively well behaved all the children were!

After the actual ceremony, we walked around the shrine, took a few posed pictures, and let the boys play.

This was really fun, to see the way the boys enjoyed playing in their kimonos. These kimonos belonged to their father and uncle when they celebrated their own Shichi-Go-San. Vintage, family heirloom Kimonos! How cool is that?

The boys were great sports, and they were rewarded with jelly beans.

The kids' grandmother was able to attend the ritual as well. She was clearly completely in love with her little grandkids!

The Yamamotos were very patient with the boys and I could see the pride in Dad's eyes as they celebrated this special day.

Ellie was calm and collected and sweet with her children, despite the cool weather and the madness of preparing three children for a once-in-a-lifetime ritual!

I loved getting to know the Yamamotos and can't wait for our next session. And I really hope to be able to shoot more Japanese rituals in the future!

Here's the Yamamoto's Slideshow:

Learn more about Shichi-Go-San

Learn more about Miyamairi

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© 2017 by ELISSE CARMA