Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My son's first visit to a local shrine

This picture was taken during the summer blessing before he was born.As is Japanese custom, babies are expected to be brought to a shrine for blessings one month after birth. This was my second time to visit this particular shrine. The first time I visited was with my wife and her parents to give offerings to the shrine and have the priest there pray for the safe birth of our soon to be born child.

DSCF0003There was nothing particularly fascinating or interesting about the old shrine where our private ceremony was held but it really did feel authentic and exciting to me. Actually, the exterior of the building was far much more interesting to me than its interior. Not to mention that it was warmer outside than it was inside the drafty old building.

The actual ceremony was very short and we were in and out of there within 10 or so minutes. The priest waved fancy folded papers handing from a stick over us, mumbled some prayers, lightly rapped us with palm fronds and promptly sent us on our way. I think parents in law gave the priest some money on top of whatever offering we also brought in.

DSCF0007The most memorable thing about the ceremony was that the priest got our last name wrong. I quietly chuckled as I commented to my wife under my breath that he got our name wrong. She was also kind of surprised because the got it right the last time we were there. My last name is not too hard of a name to say as it is a pretty common American last name but it sounds a lot like some other comical words in the Japanese language when it is “Japanized” for lack of a better word.

Outside of the priest’s slipup with my last name, the ceremony went smoothly. I lowered my head and prayed when I was expected to and understood mostly what the priest said.

DSCF0009Oh, I did forget one big detail about this particular ceremony. Some time most likely in recent Japanese history, some doofus had the bright idea to put lacey dresses on babies regardless of their sex. So my poor son had to wear a cute lacey dress to the ceremony. I argued and complained as much as I could to get my point across that I wanted my son to be formal and look like well, a guy, but my wife and mother in law were pretty firm in holding to cultural “tradition.” Honestly, I am not sure how traditional this is as it is a dress, not a kimono.

DSCF0008Dresses are not traditional in Japan so it really makes me wonder how this became normal here. Oh well, it was only a few minutes. After the ceremony was over I quickly removed the eyesore and returned some dignity back to my son. Open-mouthed smile

So that’s it for my son’s first shrine experience. Weird huh?


  1. The whole point of Shinto is to pay homage to the various kami in nature, so it's not uncommon that the inside of the shrine is not that spectacular. In fact, I think that's great that the inside remains simple, those who come should be there to sort of 'commune' with nature, the earth itself, etc. Not look at fancy stuff. I'm also not a fan of fancy icons in western worship as well, I feel it detracts from what is important.

    So yeah, I've been reading 'A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine'...

    Whenever I make a trip to Japan, my main points of interest are coming to see you and your family, and visiting Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

  2. It would be my pleasure to take you around to some. :D

  3. Dude, I was baptized in a dress like that in 1969 in Toronto... Likely that, and the Japanese thing, comes from England. BTW, my kid did his trip to the shrine in a Japanese outfit, not unlike a kimono.

    My favourite Japanese borrowing is the idiocy of 'June weddings'. Makes sense if it is the best month of the year, in ENGLAND. More here:

  4. I wanted a kimono style getup for my son as well but the mother in law and my wife win out and convinced me it was traditionally normal. Pffft.

    Sorry you got the dress treatment during your baptism dedication. I guess my son wasn't too alone in this particular situation. There are probably many more parents who did the same thing regardless of religious ceremony. ;)