Blackcabbit's World

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.

Baby Celebrations – the Japanese Way 5 (First Birthday)

Not a Cake but a Mochi

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).
Issho Mochi

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 “SeoiMochi (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).
Seoi Mochi

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.
First Birthday Mochi

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!

A peek into the future

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.)

  • Writing Brush or Pen > Artist / Writer
  • Abacus > Merchant / Good with calculation
  • Money or Wallet > Blessed with abundance of wealth, property, and other material goods
  • Scissors > Skillful hands / Fashion
  • Measuring Ruler > Methodical / Own a big house in the future
  • Chopstick, Spoon or Rice > Chef / Never go hungry
  • Dictionary > Excellence academic performance / Person with extensive knowledge
  • Ball or  Shoes > Athlete / Outstanding motor reflexes
  • Camera > We added this to see if he like snapping pictures :P

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


Baby Celebrations – the Japanese Way (Main Page)


24 comments on “Baby Celebrations – the Japanese Way 5 (First Birthday)

  1. The Verandah
    October 14, 2015

    I know this is a quite an old post but I want to say that there is a similar custom in southern India. Not for the first birthday but when the baby is introduced to solids which is 6th day in their 6th month. Normally book, money, price of gold, bowl+spoon, musical instrument, peice of cloth are placed. How the customs are similar, if thousands of miles apart.

    • blackcabbit
      October 15, 2015

      Thank you so much for sharing! It is wonderful to know that there are similar custom between Japan and Southern India.

  2. cutekitty
    February 19, 2014

    when was this Published im trying to cite it so i give you credit for the information?

    • blackcabbit
      February 19, 2014

      This entry was posted on March 10, 2011. Thank you

      • cutekitty
        March 14, 2015

        Dear Blackcat,
        thank you soooo much for letting me use your blog for my project. I made sure i gave you and your blog credit for the information about this tradition. I would like you to know i got 100% on my test. I absolutely loved learning what i have so far about how the Japenese culure is and not just for the project but for being able to learn how other cultures are like. I was wondering if you had any information for any traditional celebrations for older children? I would love read more about it.

        • cutekitty
          March 14, 2015

          Project not test sorry

        • blackcabbit
          March 14, 2015

          Wow, Cutekitty! Well done! (HUG) I am really happy that you love the Japanese culture just as much as I do. So far, the only celebration I know that is next in line for my son will be when he is in his twenties. :D Hope you will continue to give me your support by visiting this blog at the meantime :P Stay in touch! ❤

  3. cutekitty
    February 7, 2014

    when I get Older and have kids i might introduce that to my husband

    • blackcabbit
      February 7, 2014

      Dearest Cutekitty, so happy that you enjoy reading my blog, especially this particular Japanese birthday tradition. I wish you well for your project (seems like a very interesting subject). And most of all, I wish you the best for your future. May the Lord bless you a wonderful man and a beautiful family of adorable children. Keep in touch! ^_^Y

  4. blackgodzilla
    December 27, 2011

    Merry Christmas Blackcabbit,

    Our son was lucky enough to celebrate his Hatsu Tanjo at the same time as Christmas, after a short couple of hours of recovery from celebrating the merriest holiday with family and friends. Both sides of the our family were able to experience two celebration from different cultures.

    My son, who had been a good boy for Christmas, showed his angry side when it was time for him to perform his Issho Mochi. After sitting him in our hallway and placing the mochi on his back, “He gave us that what the heck mom and dad reaction,” which was followed by some minor crying and him trying to remove the mochi off of his back. It took us several attempts to get him to move without trying to untie the furoshiki. Once our little man started his journey, he had a couple of slips/falls (saved us the trouble) and a lot of moaning/groaning. When he made it to our LDK (living room, dining room, kitchen) everyone greet him with cheers of good job and immediately jumped to his birthday party. He cheered up quick when he saw his birthday cake.

    The American side of the family didn’t completely follow the Hatsu Tanjo part, but once we started singing happy birthday songs, lighting his “#1” candle they started to get back into everything. After some cake and ice cream, we finished the night off with his Erabitori.

    For items, we a mechanical pen, a dictionary, hashi (chopsticks), an IPod with the calculator app on (LOL), 10,000 yen bill, scissors, measuring tape ruler, and ball/shoes. Surprisingly he grabbed the 10,000 yen bill, and then he took the dictionary and took off for the front door at high speed. LOL, I guess he said, “I am rich now guys I’ll see you later.” If we follow the same logic, then in the future he will have a rich son, CHEERS!! My wife had a piggyback on the other pick he made by saying that he will not only be rich, but he use his money wisely as while or his good grades in school will lead him to future wealth.

    My step-daughter on the other hand was hoping that he would have grabbed the hashi instead of the dictionary, in her hopes of him owning a chain of ramen shops for her to eat every day, LOL.

    • blackcabbit
      December 28, 2011

      Your son’s Hatsu Tanjo sound really fun and well thought of! Thank you so much for sharing, blackgodzilla. I love the part where your son made for a dash after he grabbed the erabitori items. My boy had the same reaction too (natural instinct?) LOL. Have a blessed year ahead. May your family be showered with lot of love, goodness, joy and health!

  5. heu
    May 17, 2011

    thanks so much for sharing. I was just searching for a 1st birthday japanese theme for my son and i am so glad i found this. Its really interesting and very helpful.

    • blackcabbit
      May 17, 2011

      Heu, You are most welcome. May your son’s birthday be filled with joy and lots of blessing! ^_^b

  6. August McInnis
    May 5, 2011

    I found this site when I was doing a search for “mochi fumi”. I was happily surprised to see that the blog was connected to Yoyokaku, the ryokan I visited earlier in April.

    I hope to stay there with my family sometime this year.

    Till then,


    • blackcabbit
      May 5, 2011

      Hi August, thanks for dropping by. What do you mean when you say that this blog is connected to Yoyokaku? (Is there a link that refer you to my blog?) Strange, cos I never been to that ryokan. Which part of Japan is it situated in?

  7. Min
    March 10, 2011

    That is one big mochi! And I think the idea behind carrying the mochi with the stumbling and such is sweet.

    • blackcabbit
      March 10, 2011

      I had a hard time trying to “push” him. ^_^”

  8. Purin
    March 10, 2011

    One architect coming up?

    • blackcabbit
      March 10, 2011

      Hopefully LOL! ^_^b

      • cutekitty
        February 7, 2014

        BlackCabbit i love your blog I’m 15 years old and im doing project for my school about how parents raise their young in other countries, and i chose Japan cause I always had an interrest in Japanese culture and i found your blog extremely helpful and extremely intresting i love the part of the were your son touched the ruler, then scissors but grabbed the brush and ran that sounds so cute and funny Babies are silly like that I have a little sister who is 13 and she was so silly when she was a baby

        • blackcabbit
          February 7, 2014

          Dearest Cutekitty, so happy that you enjoy reading my blog. I wish you well for your project and most of all, I wish you the best for your future. May the Lord bless you a wonderful man and a beautiful family. Keep in touch! ^_^Y

          • cutekitty
            February 9, 2014

            thank you Blackcabbit and i hope you and your family is blessed with good health :)

          • blackcabbit
            February 9, 2014

            Arigato! ^_^Y

      • cutekitty
        February 7, 2014

        i might recommend it for my husband when i get married and have kids of my own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 10, 2011 by in Baby Log, Food / Recipe, Life in Japan and tagged .
%d bloggers like this: