Several dogs in Japan donning Kimonos and Japanese accessories attended a traditional ritual festival to receive special blessings, Reuters reported.
Held in mid-November, the significant ritual event known as “Shichi-Go-San” is performed in shrines. It was initially created for young girls and boys, who attend the celebration dressed in Kimono attire and in the company of their parents. The agenda? To pray for the children’s health and happiness, and to ask Shrine priests to bless the kids.
As a result of Japan’s declining birth rates, shrines are seeing more and more pet owners attending the ongoing ritual celebration — which began on Tuesday, Nov. 14 — to seek blessings for their furry companions.
Dogs blessed in shrines in place of children
In the Japanese culture, “Shichi-Go-San” loosely translates to ages three, five, and seven in English.
During this annual ritual celebration, parents take their children to shrines to celebrate the milestones they have achieved at the aforementioned ages. Additionally, they pray for their kid’s prosperity and seek blessings from the shrine priests.
Interestingly, the Shichi–Go–San ceremony has now transformed into something new.
According to Reuters, many families in Japan are opting to have pets instead of children. In fact, “Japan’s birth rate declined for a seventh straight year” last year, marking a “record low.” At the same time, “deaths increased to an all-time high.” As a result, both children and pets have become part of the Shichi-Go-San celebrations.
Pet owners travel miles to seek blessings for their canines
On Nov. 14, numerous pet owners flocked to the Cat-Dog Shrine, or Inueneko Jinja, at Zama Shrine to participate in the ongoing celebrations. During the event, six Shiba Inus donning kimonos lined up at the shrine for a commemorative photo in honor of the ceremony.
Natsuki Aoki, a dog owner from Hiroshima, flew her two Chihuahuas to Tokyo so that they could attend the same ceremony.
“There aren’t many shrines that welcome pets and allow them to walk inside,” Aoki told Reuters. “I think it would be great to see more places like this.”
Zama Shrine has been in existence since the sixth century and now hosts Shichi-Go-San rituals for pet parents who want to seek blessings for their dogs.
Yoshinori Hiraga, a 33-year-old Zama Shrine priest, acknowledged the widespread pet culture across Japan while speaking to the outlet.
“The number of children is decreasing each year, and as a result, more and more people are pouring their love into their dogs and cats,” he shared. Hiraga added, “We want to offer pet owners a place at Zama Shrine for them to thank the gods when their dogs and cats reach the age of three, five, and seven.”
Like Aoki, Masayo Tashiro visited Zama Shrine with her two dogs, a Terrier and a Pomeranian.
“They are very important to me, like my own children,” she said. “I came here to pray that they will have a safe and healthy life with us together.”
Priest Hiraga said he expects about 120 dogs will attend the ceremony this year.