Okuizome: A “First Meal” Ceremony for a Baby on Their 100th Day of Life
Within the culture of Japan are a truly incredible number of ceremonies, rites, and rituals, and today we’re going to take a look at one held for infants called “okuizome”. Photo
What is Okuizome
With a history stretching back to the Heian period (794 to 1185), okuizome is a ritual held at home on the 100th, 110th, or 120th day after the baby’s birth and involves the infant being (imitatively) fed for the first time so that they never go without food during their life. Sometimes it’s called “hashizoroe” (chopstick preparation) or “hashihajime” (first chopsticks), because it’s their first “use” of chopsticks. Related: 13 Need-to-know Basics of Chopstick Etiquette for Japanese Restaurants
The Dishware of Okuizome
Ceremonially, lacquer dishes with high “feet” are used. Lacquer dishware for male infants is vermillion both outside and in; for female infants, the outside is black and the inside vermillion. If the parents follow tradition to the letter, the chopsticks will be patterned with white willows and the rice bowl with cranes or pines. Adding a crest to the tray makes the ceremony even more formal.
The basic menu is one soup, three sides, and a whole sea bream. This combination is called an iwai-zen (“celebration meal”). Let’s look at it in further detail.
1. Sekihan (rice steamed with adzuki beans)
2. A whole fish (usually a sea bream)
3. A soup
4. A simmered dish
5. A pickled dish
6. A hagatame-ishi (“tooth-hardening stone”)
This small stone is picked from a shrine and given to an infant to let them teethe on it (part of the hagatame ceremony).
7. Umeboshi (dried fruit of the plum blossom)
This is so that the child will live a long life, until they’re “wrinkled like an umeboshi.”
8. Red and white rice cakes
The Order for Feeding the Dishes
Repeated three times, the general order goes like this: rice, soup, rice, fish, rice, soup. The order we’ve written below is for when the entire meal from above is prepared. However, people have gotten less fussy about the order in recent years.
Rice > Soup Rice > Fish Rice > Soup
Rice > Simmered dish Rice > Soup Rice > Pickled dish
Rice > Soup Rice > Hagatame-ishi Rice > Soup
The okuizome ceremony we’ve introduced in the article today has within it “wishes” for the infant of course, but what’s more wonderful is how it deepens the bonds of family, as this is something that the entire family comes together to do. There is also an element of the desire to continue on traditions, preventing them from dying out. If you happen to have a baby of your own and are interested in okuizome, be sure to try it out for yourself!