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ShichiGoSan                                   November 13, 2000













    Okay, so I have already been in Japan for three months, and I know this is a little late, but too bad. I am a busy busy person.

   This is actually about Sunday, when I went to the 'famous' Shiogama Shrine.  I had actually intended on taking a little day trip out to Kinkasan island a couple hours away to see some monkeys and trees.  But, my aversion to using an alarm clock on the weekends, and staying up until 2 am, had thwarted my plans.  So I figured I would wander over to the shrine to take some fall pictures and hang out with the few trees that Shiogama does have. 

    I started out only vaguely aware of where the shrine was located, but luckily Shiogama is small enough that everything is 'that direction'.  The entrance is actually right downtown, but silly me had never noticed before that the large, traditional Japanese shrine entrance gate was actually for The shrine.  Luckily, I saw some Japanese people walking that way so, as always, I followed them . 

    You must climb up quite a few stairs to get to the shrine, and the walk is actually quite peaceful.  The steps are made from natural stone slabs that are a nice break from the usual concrete and asphalt.  A grandma chattered at me in some strange language until halfway up, and I was then left to my own devices.  I was looking forward to a quiet afternoon.

    Well, I WAS looking forward to a quiet afternoon, until I approached the first gate entrance, only to be confronted by a throng of chattering people.  I wondered if this shrine really was so famous that so many people would come here on the weekend.  But then I remembered that Japanese people only visit shrines for happy ocassions, births, weddings and festivals.  So, I quickly deducted that there must be a festival going on.  This was further confirmed by the dozens of children running around in Kimonos and Hakamas, as well as the stall selling cotton candy and power ranger masks. (well, I assume it was power rangers, could've been voltron.)

    I first stopped just outside the entrance to see a little horse they have stabled there.  There were some children there feeding him with a long handled scoop.  You can't actually reach the horse, you can only use the stick.  I don't know, maybe he eats fingers.  But, I quickly moved on, slightly annoyed after receiving the all too familiar 'who let the gaijin in?' stare.  But their evil plan of ruining my excursion was thwarted when I went inside and soon realized it was indeed a children's festival.  Shichi Go San (7 5 3) to be exact, a celebration for girls who are 3 and 7 and boys who are 3 and 5.  The shrine here is famous for keeping children happy and healthy and abundant.  I try to avoid going there too often.  But the families were out in full force, dressed up, with video cameras and everything.  And dozens upon dozens of shiny faced happy children.  And dozens of shiny happy parents who were pleasantly oblivious to my conspicuous, childless presence.  Happily, I was left to wander at will and watch families exude joy.  It was quite refreshing to be the only foreigner in a crowd full of Japanese people and receive nothing but warm smiles.  

    I think my most poignant observation for the day is the fact that I didn't see a single child dressed in a kimono plopped down in the dirt.  And so many seven year olds with amazing contraptions of bows in their hair and not  a single strand pulled out of place.  They must super glue it.  Which leads me to my question, How do you get a five year old to wear formal clothes all day without squirming out of them, as well as getting them to stand still and look pleasant for numerous photos?  I even saw children taking photos.  Would you give your seven year old your own camera and then walk several yards away? 

I am also still wondering that if I had paid extra for the hundred yen fortune, would it have been better than my decidedly blah fifty yen fortune?  Are they allowed to do that?






  Hey! What time is it in Japan?

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