Students at BIS are navigating the pathways to enter into adulthood and our writer Hayato is looking at how this happens in various cultures and different parts of the world.
By Hayato Haraguchi
We can see many surprising differences and similarities between two different rites of
passage celebrations, the Bar Mitzvah for the jewish boys and the Shichigosan for Japanese
children. What aspects make them so unique and special? How do these two relate to each
It is a jewish religious celebration for boys who have turned 13 and are regarded as ready to
observe the religious precepts (Bat Mitzvah are for girls). The celebration includes the
reading of the Torah, giving a speech by the jewish boys who have turned 13, and breaking of
a glass. They usually serve Eastern European and middle eastern food (agel, lox, kugel,
hummus, tabouleh, couscous). Also the boys get a special gift for example jewellery, gift
cards, educational books, and cash, which is the most common gift.
A shichigosan is a Japanese rite of passage where parents are thankful that their children are
growing healthy and stay healthy. The name comes from the age they celebrate. Shichi(七)
meaning 7, go(五)meaning 5, and san(三)meaning 3. Until the age of 3, parents have to
shave their children’s head to keep it clean. From the age of 3, they will be able to start
growing their own hair.
At the age of 5, the boys wear a Hakama (traditional clothes given the meaning of a step
closer to adulthood). At the age of 7 girls will switch their 『付紐(Tsukehimo)』(a piece of
cloth to hold their kimonos) to a wider Tsukehimo’s which represents getting closer to
adulthood. All these traditions are a typical way of celebrating, however there may be slight
differences depending on which regions of Japan you are in.
There are a few similarities in the 2 different rites of passage. Firstly, both rites of passage are
not a co-ed celebration. Both the Bar Mitzvah and the Shichigosan have similar celebration
methods. For example how they both divide the celebration methods for girls and boys. They
also have a chosen age of time to celebrate due to their historical cultures.
The main difference between the two rites of passage is what they focus on. Bar Mitzvah
focuses especially on the boys making a final decision to join the jewish religion. On the
other hand the Shichigosan is focused on being thankful for the past, and to pray for the
future of their children. Also Shichigosan is not a party style celebration, where you eat
special food like what the jewish people do at the Bar Mitzvah.
Although these 2 rites of passage come from different cultures, although there were many
differences, we were able to see some similarities. Both have a unique way of celebrating
their rites of passage due to the history of the country and the culture.
O’Sullivan, Claire. “How to Plan a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in 2020: A Step-by-Step Guide –
PartySlate.” PartySlate – the Best Of, 10 Jan. 2022,
www.studio-alice.co.jp/shortcut/753_s/column/detail29.html. Accessed 30 Oct. 2022.
Limousine, Blue Streak. “Limo Service.” Blue Streak Limo, 21 May 2020,
“The Bittersweet Reason Japanese Parents Celebrate Shichi Go San.” The Wagamama
Diaries, 21 Apr. 2022,
“What Are Some Traditional Bar Mitzvah Food?” Quora,
www.quora.com/What-are-some-traditional-bar-mitzvah-food. Accessed 30 Oct. 2022.