Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
My mother-in-law said that Japanese pregnant women traditionally swaddled their abdomens for warmth and support, making the tummy a safe and snug place for their baby to grow. She suggested wearing a Haramaki (腹巻き – Bellyband) during my pregnancy. Yes, the loose and comfortable tube-like belly warmers that ojisan (old men) wore. Fortunately for fashionable mums-to-be, maternity haramaki comes in variety of colors and designs. Hee, mine were plain black. Guess my fashion sense pretty much restricted to black color.
On a similar note… In Japan, keeping one’s tummy snug and warm is so important to pregnant women, that they have a belly binding ritual known as the Obi-iwai (帯祝い).
First, a pregnant woman receives a bellyband from her parents. In my case, my mother-in-law (MIL) got one for me from Suitengu (水天宮) in Tokyo. This shrine is so well-known that it is packed with pregnant women from across the country, specifically to pray for safe and easy childbirth.
Then in her fifth month of pregnancy and on Inu-no-hi (戌の日 / Day of the Dog), the mum-to-be will perform the Obi-iwai. She will bind her tummy with the cotton sash to ensure safe and easy delivery of her child.
Interestingly, dog seems to play a big part in the sash-binding ritual. Mostly because of the belief that mummy-dogs give birth to little puppies with ease and hardly any complication. So the doggy days are considered auspicious days to do the bellyband ceremony. My MIL encourages me to follow the Inunohi’s calender and bind my tummy accordingly. Hmm, I only did it twice. (~Guilty) But I wore my haramaki all the time. (~Defensive:P)
Kodakara-Inu (子宝いぬ), a famous statue at Suitengu, believed to bring smooth delivery of babies to those who touch it.
During my pregnancy, my husband bought me an Anzan Omamori (安産御守) – an amulet to provide protection during pregnancy and childbirth. He believes that the good luck charm will safeguard me and our baby. As a Christian, my faith is in God’s protection but I was touched by his gesture of love and thoughtfulness.
Most Japanese, even the non-religious ones, have a custom of purchasing various types of Omamori (御守 / Amulet) from temples or shrines. They carry with them to provide specific protection, or to ward off certain bad luck. There is almost an amulet for every situation and its fabric pouch comes in a variety of colors and embroidery designs. Seem like a pretty thing to keep forever. However, the common practice is to replace these talismans after a year and disposed them in temples or shrine.