It's traditional in Japan to take a baby to a shrine to be blessed when he or she is one month old. I suppose it's comparable to a christening or naming ceremony. We took T to our local shrine last Sunday, just as we did for K three years ago.
We called in at H's parents' house on the way, and H's mum helped me change T into his 'ceremony dress'. It's basically a christening robe, a long white frilly thing that H's mum bought when K was a baby. To me, it's a typical example of how Japanese people borrow elements of Western culture and incorporate them into traditional Japanese life.
Our local shrine is a small place, and the priest (who also works a full-time job) is a relative of H's. He was waiting for us at the shrine, and we all took off our shoes and went up the wooden steps to join him inside.
Shinto shrines don't really have services or group worship like churches do, and people only usually enter the actual building when they are taking part in a ceremony such as a wedding or blessing. At other times, visitors just throw a small coin into the large wooden offering box at the entrance and say a brief prayer. You can see a couple of women doing just that behind us here:
The priest started the ceremony by drumming, and then prayed and blessed us all. We placed an offering of a small branch on the altar (visible in the background of the photo below), and finally, H's mum dabbed T's lips with sake (in the photo above).
This photo is a bit blurry but I love K's excited expression as he tells me something, and the look on the priest's face as he gazes at T.
And here we all are, looking very much as we did at K's ceremony; I for one am wearing exactly the same clothes... H, on the other hand, informed me that morning that apart from his very formal, weddings-and-funerals suit, he had not a single suit that didn't have fraying cuffs, hems or pockets. Looks like we'd better go shopping...
K had fun posing for the camera with the priest's hat and ... whatever that wooden thing they carry is...
The most popular type of cherry blossom finished flowering weeks ago, but there was a different kind in full bloom in the shrine grounds. It was a sunny and warm day, but very windy. At least in this photo you can actually see T's face!
After the ceremony, which only took about 30 minutes including the photo shoot, we all went out for lunch together. Then on Tuesday we dressed up again and went to the photographers to have some professional photos taken. I wanted to go on the same day as the shrine visit, but we couldn't get an appointment at the studio so it got delayed a couple of days. We should get the photos in 2 weeks, so I'll scan them into the computer and give you a peek then...