Shortly after I turned seven, close relatives of mine came over to my family’s new house to celebrate my birthday. In Japan, there is a tradition to celebrate the third and the seventh birthdays for girls and the third and the fifth birthdays for boys, a tradition that apparently goes back to ancient times to recognize the children’s healthy growth. Of all the four, girls’ seventh birthday celebration is the most spectacular since many families spend quite a fortune to dress the girl in a quality traditional kimono and take a family photograph before going to a shrine for the official ceremony.
For my seventh birthday celebration, my grandmother ordered a tailor-made kimono for me. It was of a bright red colour and made of silk. It even came with an accompanying head accessory and a handbag.
On the day of celebration, after wearing the kimono, I was taken to a hairstylist, who arranged my hair in such a way that it would go well with my traditional outfit. She also put on some makeup on my face – my first time ever to wear any kind of make-up!
Once everything was ready, I not only looked like an ancient princess but felt like one. Though I was usually an active girl who was busy moving around and talking, when I came out of the hair salon that day, I walked differently and talked differently. First of all, I walked very slowly since I did not want to fall and damage my beautiful outfit. Second of all, I spoke very less since I did not want to spoil the colour on my lips. When I did speak, I moved my mouth very little that I indeed sounded like a princess from an ancient time.
Escorted by my entire family and relatives, I proceeded to a photography studio to have a photograph taken. Slowly and gracefully, I moved through the corridor followed by a sequence of adults when I saw another princess of my age walk from the other side of the corridor accompanied by her family. Her kimono was green.
We met in the middle of the corridor and greeted – not like regular seven-year-old girls but with a proper bow like true princesses. After a bow, we carried on, the girl to exit the building and I to enter the photography studio.
Just when I reached the end of the corridor, I heard the girl’s mother call out,
“Excuse me, you dropped something!”
As I turned around, I saw the girl holding my head accessory. It must have fallen when I bowed. Since I could not run, I walked back to the girl slowly. There, she handed me my head accessory.
“What a day, we have so many princesses here!” My grandmother exclaimed. “And it’s quite a hustle to be a princess, isn’t it?”
The girl and I smiled. This time, not like princesses, but like regular seven-year-old girls: big grins which showed how proud we both were being a princess for the day.