Okuizome is one of Japanese traditional rituals for a newborn baby. It is basically a first meal ceremony for a newborn baby and the ceremony is held 100 days after a baby is born.
There are specialized dishes for Okuizome even though babies can not eat those since the babies do not have their proper baby teeth yet!
Meaning of Okuizome
Okuizome literally means eating for the first time which mean similar to the first meal. It is said that Okuizome has been done Since Heian era (794-1185)
The purpose of Okuizome is to celebrate a baby’s 100th day because it used to be challenging to grow well for some of babies due to lack of nutrition and poor hygiene.
Also there is another purpose, which is to wish that a baby will have healthy teeth as baby teeth start developing 3 to 4 months after the birth.
Currently we wish that a baby will never have no lack of food, and celebrate the 100th day and pray for the healthy teeth at the same time.
Traditionally a baby wears a baby kimono for Okuizome, a white baby kimono during the daytime and a colored one at night.
Because it is believed that a newborn baby till 100 days old is a child of god. The white kimono represents the god and the colored one represents a human, so changing kimono from white one to colored one means the baby becomes a human through Okuizome!
However, recently a baby wears a pair of rompers all day long since wearing a baby kimono and changing the kimonos are not comfortable for babies.
In fact, my child also worn a pair of rompers and there was no difficulty!
Okuizome traditionally requires 3 tools, lacquer ware to serve the foods in, chopsticks and Hagatameishi. Parents usually buy the set or the grandparents give it to the parents.
The lacquer ware is red as the red color is believed to ward off evil spirits.
The chopsticks is made of Yanagi wood because it is said that the tree is holy and the scent wards off evil spirits. Also the wood is strong and flexible.
Hagatameishi is a small stone to wish that a baby will have healthy teeth like the stone. The stone could be given by a shrine where Omiyamairi is done.
The main event of Okuizome is the first meal. The first meal comes with rice, soup and 3 dishes since it is believed that those 5 foods are essential to grow well. Those are like these.
- Grilled whole red snapper
- Red rice
- Clear soup with a shell
- Simmered food
- Vinegared vegitable or seafood
Order to eat
There are several orders to eat the first meal depending on an area. The well known order is rice, soup, rice, soup, fish, rice, soup and repeat this order 3 times, then the hagatameishi at last.
Most importantly, a 100 day old baby is too young to eat these foods so that the parents or the grandparents generally pick up the foods and bring those near the baby’s mouth as if the baby was eating the food and stone.
How locals feel about Okuizome
Okuizome is usually held at home or a restaurant, and I personally think Okuizome is one of family gatherings. It has many rules and traditions, but we do not need to strictly follow the rules of the ceremony, what is important is that a family spends the time together smiling and laughing through the event!