Setsubun (節分 - February 3, the end of winter)is drawing near. In order to do Yakuyoke (厄除け - warding off calamity or misfortune), Kyoto residents visit shrines or temples on Setsubun.
Speaking of Yakuyoke, we have a custom to send something in seven colors to friends and family members who are in their Yakudoshi (厄年 - a set of believed "unlucky" ages in Japan). For example, I have received presents such as a Koshihimo (band for KIMONO dressing), and a Datejime (sash belt for Kimono underwear) dyed in seven colors when I was at my yakudoshi.
There are various opinions about the origin of the gift in seven-colors, but one is based on a description in "Ninno hannya kyo", a Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism: There are seven disasters caused by nature, such as fire, water, or wind, etc., whereas human being have seven advantages such as longevity, virtue, and integrity etc., and these seven advantages are strong enough to erase possibilities of seven disasters...
From this description, people believed that wearing items in seven colors can drive evil spirits away and invite fortunes. Since the important thing is to wear the item, I guess people chose Koshihimo, Datejime, or Juban (innerwear for Kimono) which are worn close to the skin.
On the other hand, seven colors are also said to represent "Shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Good Fortune)". In addition, there's a theory that the figures "8" and "9" were regarded as unfavorable because they read "ya" and "ku" in Japanese, whereas 7 was preferred because it has no sound of "ku" which means suffering.
Since it's been said that something long is also good for Yakuyoke, Koshihimo and Datejime can be a perfect choice as a gift for Kimono lovers.
Click here to see a Blog by a Former MAIKO, "Do You Know?".