Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Age Special

Certain ages have special importance in Japan. It is believed that certain ages are favourable for males and certain for females. It begins with Age 3 and goes upto Age 88.

To begin with comes Shichi-Go-San. This literally translates to 7-5-3 in Japanese. It stands for the ages 7, 5 and 3 as is evident. Ages 3 and 7 are supposedly favourable for girls and Age 3 and 5 for boys. The 15th of November each year is traditionally celebrated as the Shichi-Go-San festival day. This festival has its origin in the warrior Samurai  tradition during the Heian period and it signifies the rites of passage into middle childhood.  Even now , on this day parents and children of Ages 3,5 and 7, dress up in traditional costumes  visit the Shinto shrines and pray for good health and growth.

The next special age is 20. This is the age at which  the Japanese consider that a person attains maturity.This is also the legal age at which the Japanese can vote, drink and smoke. The second Monday of January is a national holiday and it is called "Seijin No Hi" meaning Coming of Age Day.On this day, women who will attain Age 20 during the year dress up in long sleeved kimonos and men in suits visit shrines and temples to pray for an excellent adulthood . Infact some organisations even hold a Coming of Age party for their employees who turn 20 during the year.

Further, the ages 60,70,77 and 88 are believed to be favourable ages for both men and women and mark successful aging.

There are certain unfavourable ages too . The term " Yakudoshi" meaning danger years explains this. These ages are supposed to bring calamity into the people of these ages and they are supposed to have their share of misfortunes. Again here the danger years differ for both genders. For the men , the danger years are 25, 42 and 61 whereas for women the danger years are 19,33 and 37. Even among these the age 33 for women and age 42 for men are supposed to be the worst ages . There is a reason for this. The age 42 is pronounced as Shi-Ni in Japanese and it is supposed to be phonetically similar to the Japanese word for death. The age 33 is pronounced San-zan in Japanese and it is synonymous with hard and terrible. More than the favourable adulthood ages, I have heard people speaking about their beliefs in the yakudoshi and sharing instances of what bad patches they went through at those ages. People perform certain Shinto rituals , wear protective amulets etc to sail them through these "bad" ages. Some people even put off important ventures till these bad ages are crossed as they dont want to take risk.

This shows that even in today's modernized society, traditions and customs are still ruling day to day life. In countries like India, China,Japan and South Korea these traditions and beliefs have in a way preserved the culture.

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