Monday, January 28, 2013

Suitengu Shrine

While we wait for this baby to join us, we've been staying busy with short outings to keep me walking and active.

I've wanted to visit Suitengu Shrine since learning about it via the Tokyo Pregnancy Group this past summer. The shrine is located in the Ningyocho ("Doll Town") neighborhood of Tokyo. Simply visiting this neighborhood was worth the effort. It is a small taste of old Tokyo that is getting harder to find. There are traditional shops selling Japanese sweets, rice crackers, and other non-food crafts. More than a few restaurants have been in operation for generations. We enjoyed an udon place for lunch and, once the baby arrives, look forward to trying another udon place called Taniya, which I later learned is particularly well-known in Tokyo.

"Suitengu" is written on the paper lantern above me.
Today, however, the focus was Suitengu, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to conception, safe childbirth and childrearing. Most women visit this shrine in their 5th month of pregnancy and particularly on  the "dog day" of the their 5th month. Dog days occur every 12 days and I've heard that Suitengu is unbelievably crowded on those days. Why dogs?  Since dogs have large litters with relative ease, they represent safety and ease in childbirth. Next to the main shrine, there is a well-rubbed statue of a dog with her puppy.

Rubbing the dog's belly for an easy delivery.
My only disappointment was that there was no English information at the shrine, which is surprising given it's popularity. I knew a bit about it from other sources, but would have enjoyed understanding more. In addition to praying, you can make a reservation beforehand to participate in a short blessing in a private section of the temple. You can also purchase amulets and a piece of cloth that you wear in a belly band or cloth that women routinely wear from the 5th month on. It seems that you only wear the special cloth next to your belly for one day, and then after the baby is born, you use it for swaddling the baby or for other purposes. The shrine had a poster with some ideas on it, but I couldn't understand everything.

Tokyo Urban Baby is planning to do a video post on Suitengu shrine in the coming months. I'll try to remember to post it since it should provide a good overview.

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