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.
In Japan, whenever a newborn is over a month old, his or her parents will bring the child to a nearby Shinto shrine for a ceremonial blessing. This first visit to a shrine is known as Hatsu Miyamairi (初宮参り). Or, more commonly referred to as Omiyamairi (お宮参り) – the shrine visit.
In the past, the religious outing was scheduled according to the baby’s gender. For example in some region, the ceremony is held when the baby boy is 31 days old and when the baby girl is 32 days old. However, even within the same region, the numbers has become increasingly inconsistent.
Nowadays, it has become a common practice for babies (regardless of gender) to have their Omiyamairi between one month to 100 days after their birth. More and more parents choose to go after their baby’s first month health check. Though it makes sense to go on a fine weather day as well, the option is pretty much limited to availability of the priest of that respective shrine. My Mother-in-law (MIL) made the booking with our local neighborhood shrine and Baby had his first shrine visit when he was 46 days old.
Traditionally, the mother and grandmother will wear formal kimono, and their babies will be adorned in colorful kimono with gender-specific symbols. As for us, we wore our smart-casual clothes and Baby was in white dress with LACES (despite being a boy). His “dress” was special because it was the same garment worn ONCE by all his uncle and aunties during their Omiyamairi.
The ceremony was brief but solemn. (We were not allowed to take photographs). Other than showing gratitude to the gods for the safe delivery for mother and child, the main purpose of Omiyamairi is to ask the local deity to bless, purify, and to accept the baby as part of the local member. After learning this, I felt that Omiyamairi is one of the tradition, which revealed a lot about Japanese’s strong sense for their community.
In the ceremonial hall, we sat before the altar with Baby in the arms of my MIL. I was “baby-free” during the visit because of the belief that mothers are impure from childbirth and are still recovering from fatigue. The priest stood facing us. He would chant ancient Japanese Language in song-like manner and occasionally waved his zigzag paper wand (Onusa). He introduced Baby to the local deity by calling out his name and birth information, and asked the god to purify, protect and bless the new member with happiness and health.
My husband also had a role to play. He presented a branch of the Sakaki to the diety, then the whole family did the clap-bow routine in unison. The minute the priest finished, Baby who was sleeping since the beginning, suddenly made a loud “Hai” (Yes) in his sleep. It was so hilarious and cute that we couldn’t hold our giggles. Before we leave the hall, the priest presented Baby with a Hatsumiyamoude (Amulet), talisman, and towel gifts. Thereafter, we roamed around the shrine to take pictures before heading home for a small celebration meal.