Birthday celebration or child abuse?

Good morning everyone,

Today is looking gorgeous again. In fact, it's going to be slightly cooler today than yesterday (which isn't a bad thing, it was a bit too warm for late September yesterday, don't you think?). Then tomorrow we can expect some rain in the afternoon or evening and Friday may or may not rain before turning back to nice sunny weather for the weekend.

In Japan, there is a tradition that is celebrated only once in a lifetime, a special custom for all the one year olds on their Hatsu Tanjo (初誕生 / First Birthday). Japanese parents celebrate their kids’ special day with one or a pair of red-white Birthday Rice Cakes (Tanjo Mochi / 誕生餅).

The Birthday Mochi is called by a few different names depending on where you are in Japan In Kyushu, it is known as Mochi Fumi (餅踏み / Mochi Stepping). Kyushu’s one year olds step on the mochi with their baby-sized waraji (草鞋 / straw sandals), hence the name..

To the rest of Japan, the mochi is commonly known as “Shoi” or “SeoiMochi (背負餅) and Issho Mochi (一升餅). 一升 shares the same homonym with 一生 (lifetime), so sometimes it is written as “一生餅” instead. In this case, the toddlers carries the mochi on their back or shoulder, either in a bag or bundled up with a furoshiki (風呂敷 / wrapping cloth).

isshomochi.jpg

As 一升 (Issho or Isyou) is an unit of old Japanese liquid measurement equivalent to 1800cc, so the mochi weighs around 1.8kg. That’s a heavy load for a one-year-old! Most babies can barely walk at that age and adding an extra 1.8kg is closer to a punishment than a birthday celebration!. And as if that ain’t bad enough, the parents’ role is to PREVENT the child from walking smoothly by deliberately trying to make them stumble with a light push. What?! Why would you do that to your own kid? Is a way of getting back at them for crying all the time when you're trying to sleep? Ha ha! Actually, there is a reason for it...let me explain further…

By carrying out this odd (and brief) ritual, good-intended parents wish for their precious child to be blessed with health, food and Enman (円満) all through his or her life. 円満 doesn't translate so easily in English, but in Japan it represents perfection, harmony, peace, smoothness, completeness, satisfaction as well as integrity. What a great word! How come no one has used it to describe me in all the time I've been here. I blame my parents for not making me carry around 1.8kg of mocha on my 1st birthday...it's their fault that I'm not perfect! :)

As for the staggering act, well, life is never a smooth ride, but full of ups and downs, so it is better to let your little bundle of joy know that it’s okay to stumble along the way while their young. Is that right?

In Canada, on our first birthday we get cake and presents...and...well, that's all. I think I had to go feed the chickens too...ha ha!

Have a great day!


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