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, there is a tradition that is celebrated only once in a lifetime, a special custom for all the one year olds on their Hatsu Tanjo (初誕生 / First Birthday). Though the western birthday cake may still be present for some families, Japanese parents celebrate their kids’ special day with one or a pair of red-white Birthday Rice Cake (Tanjo Mochi / 誕生餅).
The Birthday Mochi is called by many names. Just to introduce a few… In Kyushu, it is known as Mochi Fumi (餅踏み / Mochi Stepping). Of which, Kyushu’s one year olds step on the mochi with their baby-sized waraji (草鞋 / straw sandals).
To the rest of Japan, the mochi is commonly known as “Shoi” or “Seoi” Mochi (背負餅) and Issho Mochi (一升餅). 一升 shares the same homonym with 一生 (lifetime), so sometimes it is written as “一生餅” instead. In this case, the toddlers carries the mochi on their back or shoulder, either in a bag or bundled up with a furoshiki (風呂敷 / wrapping cloth).
As 一升 (Issho or Isyou) is an unit of old Japanese liquid measurement equivalent to 1800cc, so the mochi weighs around 1.8kg. That’s a heavy load! Most babies will feel very uncomfortable and start crying almost immediately. And as if that ain’t bad enough, the parents’ role is to PREVENT the child from walking smoothly by deliberately stumble them with a light push. Oh No! What an unthinkable way to dampen a child’s birthday celebration! Okay, let me explain further…
By carrying out this odd (and brief) ritual, good-intended parents wish for their precious child (all through his or her life) to be blessed with health, food and Enman (円満). 円満 represents perfection, harmony, peace, smoothness, completeness, satisfaction as well as integrity. Such a positive word. I do pray that Baby will have all these wonderful qualities.
As for the staggering act, not sure if I understand my MIL’s explanation correctly. Okay, here it goes… Life is never a smooth ride, but full of ups and downs, so it is better to let your buttercup knows that it’s okay to stumble along the way.
Since we are in the Kanto area, we had an “Issho Mochi Set,” which my MIL ordered online from 一升餅.com. Ours was a single mochi with Baby’s name on it. The 4580-yen set also includes two pieces of calligraphy with his name in Kanji, a bag specially made for this purpose, pretty packaging as well as a printed instruction about the event.
Surprisingly, our fireball did not shed any tears at all, despite being ladened with a burdensome bundle on his back. All he did was grunting sounds whenever he tried to lift himself up. He stumbled and wobbled quite a lot, so his parents did not have to much evil pushing. Whew!
Another part of the “First Birthday” tradition was an event known as Erabitori (選び取り/ Pick & keep an item). We had a few items set before him. It is said that the first thing that Baby select will show his calling, a tendency towards a specific career field. (The following list of items was suggested from this Japanese site.)
Interestingly, he touched the ruler first, then the scissors, but grabbed the writing brush and RAN! Hoho. So if we were to follow the rule of game strictly (i.e. the first thing he touched)… Then, our boy will grow up to be methodical, just like his daddy, grandpa and a bit of mummy too! Though, I do secretly love the idea of him excelling in any art-related line of work. hoho ^_^b