Out of all the animals, dogs have relatively easy and smooth pregnancies… or so it is said.
Therefore, on Inu no Hi (戌の日, literally “day of the dog”) Japanese women go to a shrine during the 5th month of pregnancy to pray for aid in getting through the remainder of her pregnancy and to have a safe delivery.
Inu no Hi is based on the traditional Japanese calendar.
Using the animals of the 12 year cycle, the Japanese calendar assigns one of these animals, one a day, for a 12 day cycle.
There are at least 2 Inu no Hi per month; some months have 3.
If you get a chance to see an old school Japanese calendar, you will see more writing than blank spaces. Every day has something associated with it.
Most Japanese aren’t familiar with these extra days. I certainly don’t know despite my years living here.
Most concern themselves only with Rokuyou (六曜), the six day calendar system of lucky and unlucky days.
(I’ll have to tell you the story about wedding planning with the in-laws one day…)
We happen to own such an old school calendar, a new year’s gift from our local supermarket.
Here is the page for April 2017:
As you can see, April has two Inu no Hi, April 17 and April 29 (noted by “いぬ” in the bottom left corner).
April 17 is a particularly auspicious day as it is taian (大安), day of great peace.
Taian, being the luckiest rokuyou day, means that nearly everyone wants to go to the shrines.
Obviously, some women aim for taian, but others try to avoid the crowd.
Women with difficult pregnancies, or women who would rather not make the visit in extreme heat or extreme cold may adjust their visit as they see fit.
Here is a calendar for all the inu no hi of January 2018 to March 2019 courtesy of Inujirushi, a leading manufacturer of maternity wear.
Fun fact: “Inujirushi” means “the mark of the dog!”
Perhaps the most popular shrine in Tokyo for inu no hi blessings is Suitengu Shrine, located right near Exit 5 of Suitengu Station on the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line.
Inu no Hi blessings typically cost around 4,000 yen, which is paid in cash, but wrapped in a special envelope called a noshi bukuro (のし袋 ).
Pregnant women receive special amulets and a sarashi (晒), a type of cloth haraobi (腹帯), that is wrapped around the belly to lift and support.
I only used my sarashi wrap a few times, then after that I switched to the more convenient pull-up type.
My in-laws also gave me a personalized o-mamori (amulet) from a shrine in Ibaraki. The o-mamori even has my name, age and address on it.
My husband and I went to Kameido Tenjin, which has become my go-to shrine for everything, including wisteria gazing.
When the priest did the blessings/chants, I could hear him saying my name and address.
I suppose it’s to let the gods know where exactly to go. After all, they have many pregnant women to look over, so they can’t lose any time getting lost on the way.