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Birth Stories


Baby Traditions Around the World

Pregnant WomanCelebrating a Japanese Newborn

By H.

Baby showers in Japan are rare, although due to “westernization” some occur. Like many cultures, Japanese have their superstitions and it may be seen as tempting fate if one prepares or gives gifts for the expected baby. Gifts from family, friends, and coworkers usually don’t come until after the baby is born. It’s considered polite to wait until the mother and newborn have been home for a month or two, when they’re rested and healthy and the family hubbub has subsided a bit, before visiting and bestowing gifts. 10,000 yen (ichiman) or more is a traditional gift for many occasions, and welcoming new life into the world is no exception. With “westernization” this is also changing slightly and clothes, toys, etc. are getting to be more common. Because of smaller living spaces – many still roll out their futons in the common area at night – it would be considerate to call and ask if anything is needed or wanted. If one wants to buy something before the baby’s birth, consider something with a dog theme because dogs are believed to help with safe and easy deliveries.

Japanese baby clothesThere are a few traditions centered around the new baby, circumcision excluded. When the baby’s umbilical cord falls off, it is saved in a wooden box (heso) specifically for that purpose. This is a well wishing for the mother and child’s relationship in the present and future. On the baby’s 7th day (oshichiya), he or she is named. Often at the ceremony are special dishes, one of them being red rice with beans. Red symbolizes happiness and fortune. The mother and grandmother may take the baby (30 days for boys, 32 days for girls) to the temple to be blessed by the priest. The baby’s first visit to the Shinto shrine is omiya mairi. Upon their return, family and friends celebrate. Between 100-120 days the weaning ceremony, or okuizome, occurs where it’s pretended the baby is eating food in the hopes that he or she never has to worry about food.

Often people get lost in the moment of wanting to celebrate and welcome the new life brought into this world. What’s seen as a polite gesture by one may be seen as rude by another, culturally different or not. Asking never hurts and will be considered thoughtful.

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