There are many traditional rituals for a newborn baby in Japan, Omiyamairi is one of those.
Omiyamairi is the first visit to a shrine for a baby, parents bring their babies there to express their gratitude for the baby’s birth and pray for the baby’s healthy growth and happiness.
Omiyamairi is done traditionally 31 days after the birth for a boy, and 32 days after for a girl. However the custom has become less strict as the society gets more open, recently it is more common to do the first visit later.
In fact, I did Omiyamairi for my child around 5 months after the birth!
Parents usually buy or rent a baby dress or a baby kimono for Omiyamairi.
There are 2 types of kimono to wear for a baby, one is an inner kimono called Shirohabutae which is white inner cloth. The other one is called Kakegi which is worn over the baby and tied to the back of the baby’s carrier. Traditionally the grandmother on the father’s side is the carrier, but the traditional custom has also become less strict so the baby’s mother can be the carrier.
Mothers usually wear Kimono, formal dress or suit. Grandmothers do the same. Fathers and grandfathers usually wear a suit.
The ritual is for a new born baby, so the attendees consider the baby’s outfit first and wear appropriate clothes.
Omiyamairi literary means a shrine visit. But it is not only a shrine visit for a new born baby, it is also an important family gathering for grandparents. They are willing to attend the ceremony since grandchildren are the apple of a grandparent’s eye!
Traditionally only grandparents on a father’s side attend the ceremony, however recently grandparents on a mother’s side also join the ceremony because it sounds like a more peaceful solution!
The babies get a Japanese character (Kanji) drawn on their foreheads in Omiyamairi. It looks unusual even for locals, but having the character on their foreheads has the meaning.
There are 2 kinds of characters, one is for a boy and the other one is for a girl. Boys get 大 which is pronounced Dai and literally means big. Girls get 小 pronounced Sho and the meaning is small.
The Dai and Sho do not have the literal meanings only, but the characters also have more meanings. Traditionally parents draw Dai wishing the baby boy will grow big and strong, and draw Sho wishing the baby girl will grow delicate and modest, NOT wishing the baby girl will grow small!
Omiyamairi on your own is fine, but with a shinto priest praying for a baby is more proper. The prayer takes around 30 mins.
Hatsuhoryo is required at the shrine which is the fee for the priest praying. It costs from JPY 5000 to JPY 10000 depending on a shrine and parents.
At the end of the prayer, most of shrines give you a baby gift. It includes a stone and chopsticks for Okuizome which is another Japanese traditional ritual.
How locals feel about Omiyamairi
I feel Omiyamairi is more like a ceremony for grandparents not for the couple and the baby since elderly tend to care about the Japanese traditions more and couples do not.
In fact, I did not have a plan to do it with a shito priest, but my parents strongly suggested to do it in the proper way and they were seriously looking forward to it, additionally my parents in law felt the same. So we did it by the pressure!
After all, Omiyamairi became a memorable event for all of us, and we are happy that we did it!