A month after a baby is born, it is a common practice in Japan to bring them to a Shinto shrine for their first shrine visit known as Hatsumiyamairi. Commonly shortened to ‘Omiyamairi’, this is a custom that is meant to thank the Gods for the baby’s birth and to pray for his/her well-being.
Traditionally, this is done on a baby boy’s 31st day of life and a baby girl’s 33rd. However, people are no longer as strict when it comes to observing this practice and many parents do it on any day that is most convenient for them as long as it is still close to the 1 month mark.
Preparation for Omiyamairi
Of course, the first thing you would want to do is to clear up your schedule for this affair. The ceremony itself will only take about 15 minutes but be sure to also set aside some time for taking pictures (maybe even a celebratory meal) as this is a happy occasion that should be remembered. In addition to mom and dad, you may also come with other members of the family. If your husband is Japanese, inviting his mother would be a great idea since the the baby’s grandmother on the father’s side is customarily the ‘carrier’ of the baby for the ceremony.
Also make sure to call the shrine in advance as you might need to make a reservation. We had our Omiyamairi at Ikegami Honmonji in Tokyo and when we called, we were actually informed that we did not need to make a reservation but this is not the case for all places.
In addition, there is a fee required for the Omiyamairi which, depending on the shrine, is anywhere between 3,000 to 10,000 yen.
For the adult’s dress code, stick with casual-formal/formal. For the baby on the other hand, any cute piece would do just fine for your (at this stage) very little one. However, on top of whatever you decide to dress her with, the baby would wear a special bonnet, lace attire and kimono-like cloth with straps that would be tied behind the back of the person carrying him/her. Fortunately for us, we already had these items in the family. My mother-in-law brought all these items from Osaka and joined us here in Tokyo for the Hatsumairi. If you don’t have these yet, they are usually available for renting at photo studios. A lot of families also have their pictures taken at these studios to commemorate the baby’s first shrine visit.
During the Omiyamairi
This would depend on the shrine you are having your Omiyamairi in. In some shrines, the priest would conduct the ‘purification’ ceremony exclusively for your party. In our case. we had to do it with other people who came to the temple for purification (not all of use were there for Omiyamairi – some were adults, for example). Because of this, the ceremony probably took longer in our case. If you also happen to do the Omiyamairi with other parties, listen out for your baby’s name – it will be mentioned a couple of times during the chant and at one point your party would have to walk to the front and be purified with the incense (just follow the lead of your Japanese companions).
After the Omiyamairi
Once the Omiyamairi is done, you would receive a bag of goodies for your little one. Again, this would depend on the shrine you go to. From Ikegami Honmonji, little Ryuma got an amulet (omamori) and a pair of chopsticks for his first meal.