O-Shichiya & Meimei-shiki – Japanese Baby Naming Tradition


Baby Milestones / Saturday, April 8th, 2017

O-Shichiya & Meimei-shiki – Japanese Baby Naming Tradition

Japanese law mandates that parents submmit a Register of Birth (出生届, shussei todoke) by the time a baby is 14 days old. Parents are busy trying to decide a name as well as its kanji (Chinese characters),

Before the Register of Birth is submitted and a baby’s name formally registered at a municipal office, it is tradition in Japan to have a naming ceremony, meimei-shiki, (命名式)  during o-shichiya (お七夜), a baby’s 7th night of life.

The purpose of o-shichiya is to celebrate a new life. Parents hope that their baby will grow up in good health. It is said that this custom has its origins in the Heian Period whereby giving a child a name was a step in recognizing them as a new member of society.

The baby’s name is written on a special sheet of paper called a meimei-sho (命名書) which can be purchased at stationary shops throughout Japan. Meimei-sho often feature cranes, a symbol of longevity. Modern meimei-sho feature cute imagery or cartoon characters.

Family members find out the baby’s name at O-Shichiya. I suppose it’s the Japanese version of the now popular “gender reveal.”

We decided our daughter’s name months before she was born. Therefore, we didn’t have much to formally reveal to family members. Still, I personally wanted to experience this unique part of Japanese culture.

Still, it was important for the in-laws, so seven days after baby was born (2 days after leaving the hospital), my father-in-law came to Tokyo (MIL was already here). He has wonderful handwriting, so he had the honors of writing baby’s name.

O-Shichiya & Meimei-shiki – Japanese Baby Naming Tradition

Check out other Japanese Celebrations for Baby:

O-kuizome – An Elaborate Feast for Baby

O-Miya Mairi – Taking Baby to a Shrine

Inu no Hi – A Shrine Visit for Pregnant Women

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