Being pregnant in Japan is a 10-month long ordeal of hospital visits, taboos, and superstitions. And, even after your baby is born, the show still goes on. After you’ve no doubt introduced your new arrival to eager family members and friends, it’s soon time for omiyamairi: baby’s first photo shoot and shrine visit.
Of course, there’s more to omiyamairi (お宮参り) than just taking pictures. But, it’s such an important event (that means a lot to grandparents) that the occasion must be documented… with a very expensive photo shoot on location at a shrine (or at least at a nearby photo studio).
What Is “Omiyamairi?”
To begin, omiyamairi means, “baby’s first visit to a shrine.” It’s done at around the 1 month mark, to give thanks for baby’s safe delivery. In some regions of Japan, omiyamairi is also called hatsumiyamoude (初宮詣) or ubusunamairi (産土参り)
Like practically everything in Japan, things are done differently for boys and girls. Newborn boys make their visit when they are 31 days old. Newborn girls make their visit when they are 33 days old.
As with Inu no Hi, these dates are not set in stone. Feel free to adjust your visit based on the weather, the availability of family members. Most important is the physical condition of you and your child.
Back in the day, omiyamairi used to be a family affair with both sets of grandparents attending. But, nowadays, it’s completely normal to see a just set of new parents with their brand new baby at a shrine.
In our case, we first had a photo shoot at a local studio (courtesy of some vouchers given to us by my birth clinic) before making our way to Kameido Tenjin. Kameido Tenjin, by the way, is the same shrine of my In no Hi blessing.
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What To Wear
Baby boys wear kimono in black or shades of dark blue, while girls wear pink or red kimonos. (If this bothers you now, just wait until hatsu sekku and shichi go san!). Photo studios also have suit-like onesies and Christening dresses available as well.
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Parents and grandparents should wear business casual or dress semi-formal, and moms can forget about heels. I, however, was determined to wear my heels. After all, we were going by car, and I really wanted the full experience of being dressed up and out the house…
What To Bring
To have a blessing on the day of omiyamairi, it’s best to call ahead to make a reservation. The fee (初穂料 | hatsuhoryou or 玉串料 | tamagushiryou) is generally anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 yen and should be put in a white envelope (熨斗袋 | noshibukuro).
The actual blessing takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. This all depends on how many people are present for whatever blessing they may need.
After it all was done, little Kaiju got a bag of shrine swag filled with a a mother-child omamori (amulet), a toddler cup, and blessed wafers in the shape of the shrine’s symbol.
After omiyamairi, the next Japanese celebration for babies is okuizome (お食い初め).