Babies at the Shrine: Understanding Omiyamairi Tradition

  • SOCIETY
  • CULTURE
  • There are numerous events involving shrines in Japan such as traditional marriages, the ‘Rite of Passage’ for seven, five and three-year-old kids (Shichi Go San), and the ‘Coming of Age’ ceremony (Seijinshiki) for soon-to-be adults. There is also a variety of celebrations and festivals involving local shrines.

    shrine-babies

    However, there is one common practice that signifies an important part of a person’s life in Japan and resembles a first for it too which is the Hatsu Miyamairi.

    Hatsu Miyamairi

    shrine-family

    The Hatsu Miyamairi or simply Omiyamairi is the first shrine visit of babies in Japan. Traditionally, these babies are brought to the shrine about one month after birth. About 31 days after birth for baby boys and 33 days for baby girls. But nowadays, this traditional custom has become less strict and less common, as babies are brought to the shrines upon the parents’ decision. During the old days, the meaning of the Omiyamairi is for the babies to receive blessings when brought to the shrine, but now it is for thanking the birth of the child and to grow up well.

    shrine-prayer

    Parents either buy or rent a baby dress for their babies and a type of kimono is worn over the baby and tied to the back of the baby’s carrier, who is traditionally the grandmother of the baby from the father’s side. A reservation is also required for the Omiyamairi and costs a small fee that varies from shrine to shrine.

    shrine-baby

    A Shinto Priest will conduct a prayer for the baby which will include saying the baby’s name, birthday and the name of the parents. Afterwards, attendees are given sake in red wooden cups and a few gifts will also be given as a token of the Omiyamairi. Families usually have a picture taken with the baby for the Omiyamairi either at the shrine or at professional photo studios like any other commemorative event.

    shrine-shrine

    Author’s photo

    Parents either take their babies to a popular shrine or a local shrine for the Omiyamairi. The photo of the shrine above is where I had my Omiyamairi. It is our local shrine, and my grandmother came to Tokyo from Kamakura for mine, resembling the importance of the tradition for the entire family. The Omiyamairi is the first traditional experience that a child has and is definitely an event that the Japanese and also foreign parents living in Japan look forward to.

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