Pets took center stage at a Shinto shrine near Tokyo this week to receive blessings from priests in a tradition originally observed for children.
Pet owners traveled to Inuneko Jinja (Dog
Shrine) within the Zama Shrine in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tuesday to have their beloved fur babies blessed for the tradition known as Shichi-Go-San, which translates to Seven-Five-Three. The Zama Shrine in Tokyo
first established the Inuneko Jinja in 2012.
About the tradition:
Shichi-Go-San is originally a coming-of-age tradition for children celebrated in mid-November across Japan
. Parents take kids aged 3, 5 and 7 to Shinto shrines to have them blessed by a priest, offering prayers for a healthy and happy future
Not just for kids: Like with children, pet owners dress their fur babies in traditional clothing during the ritual. They also line them up for picture-taking at the ceremony.
Zama Shrine priest Yoshinori Hiraga, 33, told Reuters
that they expected to see 120 pets this season. A similar event was held in Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Saturday.
Declining birth rate:
The pet version of Shichi-Go-San underscores the growing number of Japanese people preferring animal companions over children. Today, Japan continues to face declining birth rates
; its health ministry recorded 1.26 in 2022, down from 1.30 in the previous year and significantly lower than the 2.06 to 2.07 rate required to maintain a population, as per AP News
“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,” Hiraga said.