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  • Elisse Carma

Shichi-Go-San and Miyamairi with the Yamamotos

Grandma dresses her grandson in a kimono and grabs his face lovingly

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

Roma plays with the colorful paper cranes in the changing area

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

Taiga makes ninja moves as he tries out his kimono for the ceremony

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.

Seren stares at the camera in her adorable Miyamaira outfit

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.

Roma gets whacked by his brother while the play in their kimonos

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.

Roma looks very upset, but he actually just needs to use the potty

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.

Roma's dad helps him to wash his hands

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.

Ellie smiles and holds Seren in the Miyamaira robe while waiting for the ceremony to start

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?

Roma and Taiga play in their kimonos, running around and trying to scare each other

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!

Roma waves the sword thing around playfully

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

Roma and Taiga show their muscles while posing in their kimonos

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?

Taiga is tickled by his mother, who is wearing baby Seren

Roma tries to open his jelly beans and everyone reaches out to help him

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

Ellie tickles Taiga playfully because he refuses to give her a kiss

Grandmother touches Roma's chin lovingly

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

Roma hugs his dad, who has his tie over his shoulder

Roma's dad holds him

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 walks down the stairs with Seren in the pack, holding Roma's wooden sandals

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!

Roma's dad teaches him how to bow

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!

Roma and his dad lovingly put their foreheads together and laugh

Here's the Yamamoto's Slideshow:

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