Monday, 18 October 2010

Dog Day

You know how every year is represented by one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, right? Did you know that every day, and even every hour of the day*, is also allocated one of those 12 animals?

It's not something that comes up very often in life in Japan, but there is one exception - dog days during the 5th month of pregnancy. Since dogs are seen to give birth easily, it's a tradition to visit a shrine to be blessed and to pray for a smooth pregnancy and easy labour on that day. Dogs days and all the rest aren't noted in calendars and diaries here but the clinic kindly marked them on the 'pregnancy calendar' they gave me, along with dates of classes, when certain tests would be performed and that all-important due date.

Anyway, last Friday was that day so H, K and I went over to our local shrine (about 2 minutes walk away, even at K's pace) where the priest (H's uncle) performed a simple ceremony for us. At large, popular shrines these blessings are done in groups but in our case it was just us, so my name was included in the blessing. Although the priest's prayers are in Japanese, they are said in such a strange, chanting way, often using archaic or highly formal language, that it is virtually impossible to understand, and it's quite funny when you suddenly notice your name in there.

At the end of the ceremony, which only took about 15 minutes, I was given a good-luck charm for pregnancy and childbirth, and a wooden tablet to place in the little shrine we have in our home. I had also taken a hara-obi, a belly band, to have blessed. Traditional ones are very long and wrap around you sash-like, but mine just fastens at the back with Velcro :-)

I'm now supposed to wear this everyday to keep the bump warm and offer support. With K, I think I wore it for a few months, and then couldn't be bothered anymore... Keeping your stomach warm is a really big thing in Japan, and more so than ever when you're pregnant. You won't find pregnant young women in cropped tops, low-rise trousers and bare bumps here! Last time I did look into why, and I did find one small, non-essential but medically-sound, reason why it was a good idea. Now I can't quite remember what it was, but I suppose I will wear it again, at least until I get fed up with it...

*It's actually every-block-of-2-hours-within-a-24-hour-period, but that wouldn't have made such a catchy question...

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you are five months gone already!! And still so trim! We never did any ceremonies like this (I actually didn't know they existed till some time after the first one was born - hub doesn't know about these things either...) so it's interesting to see what you did.