So, apparently I didn’t take any Omiyamaeri photos with my phone, instead they are all on my digital camera which isn’t here with me in this train traveling to the airport. I did, however, take a photo of one of the courses at lunch that day (lunch directly followed the omiyamaeri business).
Omiyamaeri is a special milestone for newborns marking when they have reached their 100th day. The parents and grandparents take the young baby to a temple to present the baby before their gods. The omiamaeri tradition is quite old, and the ceremony is full of Japanese religious customs. Here is essentially what happened:
We arrived at the temple a little early and waited inside a separate building with two other families and their infants. When it was time to start all three families proceeded to the small open-air temple in single file with grand parents walking first and specifically with the infant’s grandmother on the father’s side leading the way with baby in her arms. In our case, that means my mom, a great experience for her
We all removed our shoes before entering the tatami floored temple room, and once inside we sat in three rows with grandma and baby up front, parents next, and other grandparents and family members behind. Facing forward was a small tatami room a bit smaller than the one we were in, but joined without any wall between us (just some half-height curtain separated us). On the far side of that room was another doorway leading to an open air inner-yard and, a few yards away, a small temple building for the gods.
The priest said a prayer and blessed the babies, then carried some special platter of mochi (rice cake) out through the far doorway to offer at the foot of the other building. While there, we could here him chanting a prayer, and after listening for a few moments I realized his rhythmic chant was our address and names and the birthdates of the babies. Essentially, the ceremony is designed as an introduction to the gods (as if they don’t know our names and addresses).
After returning, he blessed the babies by waving somes green leafed tree branch and some small bells over the grandmother and baby. He also had us fathers go to the front and bow in prayer after ceremoniously picking up a similar leafed branch, turning it, and placing it with the stem facing the other temple. Shortly after, everything was finished, and we all departed after another quick prayer.
On an unrelated note, I have in my hand some good reading material for my 12hour flight. I asked Ayako to order this book for me from Amazon Japan on Monday. She placed the order right before lunch and sent me the purchase confirmation. When I got home that very same evening, the book was already there waiting on me… I was amazed.