In Japan, when a child is one month old, you can take them to a shrine for the miyamairi (宮参り) event. This is essentially a child’s first visit to a shinto shrine, and after the ceremony of a priest performing prayers and waving a sacred staff with paper streamers over the children, thus recognising them to the gods as beings to be protected.
For our event, there were about ten families per session, with grandmothers holding the babies at the front, and families at the back. As the priest was reading each baby’s name out I was following along the list as shown in front of the shrine, and seeing that ours was the only name containing katakana, and the only one in given name, middle name family order, I was a bit nervous, but full points to the priest as he chanted straight through it with no problem.
The whole thing was over in just over five minutes though, and then it was time for customary photographs in front of the temple itself. Many couples had bought (or rented) the frilly white outfits for the babies for this day, but being modern folk, we brought a fleece blanket and our seemed fairly happy with the whole event.
Though this is an event done by many Japanese (and I guess other Shintoists), it’s as much a tradition than a religious event, such is the relationship between belief and national identity in Japan.
We also spent some time to show thanks following the ‘Inu no hi’ visit we did earlier in the year, performing the oreimairi, to close that particular circle.
Fortunately, after a few days of dire weather, it was beautifully sunny with blue skies for today’s event.