Being pregnant in Japan is a journey that is no doubt peppered with cultural shock. However, I found those moments to be an interesting insight to Japanese culture. While some cultural norms regarding pregnancy had me raising my eyebrows in amusement, I found Inu no Hi to be a wonderful experience. Here’s why pregnant women in Japan visit shrines on Inu no Hi.
Why Pregnant Women in Japan Visit Shrines on Inu no Hi
According to tradition, dogs have relatively easy and smooth pregnancies compared to other animals. Therefore, on Inu no Hi (戌の日, literally “day of the dog”) Japanese women go to a shrine or temple during the 5th month of pregnancy. They pray for aid in getting through the remainder of the pregnancy and to have a safe delivery. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Lucky dog,” doesn’t it?
Inu no Hi is based on the traditional Japanese calendar. Using the animals of the 12 year cycle, the Japanese calendar assigns one of these animals, one a day, for a 12 day cycle. There are at least 2 Inu no Hi per month; some months have 3.
If you get a chance to see an old school Japanese calendar, you will see more writing than blank spaces. Every day has something associated with it.
Most Japanese aren’t familiar with these extra days. Most concern themselves only with Rokuyou (六曜), the six day calendar system of lucky and unlucky days. (One day, I’ll have to tell you the story about wedding planning with the in-laws…)
Taian (大安), day of great peace, is a particularly auspicious day. And, being the luckiest rokuyou day, means it that nearly everyone wants to go to the shrines. Obviously, some women aim for taian, but others try to avoid the crowds.
When Exactly Is Inu no Hi?
Here is a calendar for all the Inu no Hi of January 2022 to March 2023, courtesy of Inujirushi, a leading manufacturer of maternity wear. Keep in mind that your Inu no Hi will coincide with the 5th month of your pregnancy. However, if you’re having a difficult pregnancy or would rather not make the visit in extreme heat or extreme cold you may adjust tyour visit accordingly. There is no “rule” that you must visit a shrine or temple during Inu no Hi.
Where To Go For Inu no Hi
Perhaps the most popular shrine in Tokyo for Inu no Hi blessings is Suitengu Shrine, located right near Exit 5 of Suitengu Station on the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line.
When choosing a shrine or temple for your Inu no Hi visit, your primary factors may be family tradition and logistics.
In my case, my husband’s family is Shinto and based in Ibaraki. However, we thought it would be better to do the Inu no Hi ceremony and subsequent Omiyamairi celebration at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo. It was a toss-up between Yasukuni Shrine and Kameido Tenjin. In the end, we chose Kameido Tenjin as its one of my favorite spots in Tokyo.
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When the priest did the blessings/chants, I could vaguely hear him saying my name and address. I suppose it’s to let the gods know where exactly to go. After all, they have many pregnant women to look over, so they can’t lose any time getting lost on the way!
How Much Do Shrine or Temple Visits Cost?
Inu no Hi blessings(安産祈願 | anzan kigan) typically cost around 4,000-5,000 yen, which is paid in cash, but wrapped in a special envelope called a noshi bukuro (のし袋 ).
After the blessing, pregnant women receive special amulets and a sarashi (晒), a type of cloth haraobi (腹帯), that is wrapped around the belly to lift and support. I only used my sarashi wrap a few times, then after that I switched to the more convenient pull-up type. My in-laws also gave me a personalized o-mamori (amulet) from the family shrine in Ibaraki. The o-mamori even has my name, age and address on it.