It can be easy, when you are caught up in the whirlwind that is parenting, to assuming that it is the same for parents the world over. To some degree that is true. We all want the best for our kids, to see them grow up happy, to have them be good people and to eventually wave them off into adulthood, well equipped to be the best version of themselves possible.
The differences appear when you begin to look at parents and children from different cultures and realize how we raise our children is interwoven with our personal values, our immediate environment and the expectations of the society in which we live. We may all want to raise “good kids” but what it means to be a “good kid” depends, very much, on where in the world you live.
For example, your children might be behaving in a way that would be considered boisterous but good-natured and acceptable in the USA, but in Japan, that same behavior would be frowned on, and you would be viewed as a parent who lets their children run wild.
There are many ways in which we might view elements of childhood that are routine in Japan, as seriously weird but there are also some different practices that are truly beautiful.
16. EAT UP LITTLE NEWBORN
In the west, we may bring the parents of a baby, or the newborn itself presents when we come to visit. Usually, these gifts are something practical like pretty clothes, a cuddly toy or something similar for the little one, or a piece of baby rearing equipment such as a baby bouncer, as long as these items have not been previously purchased or given at the baby shower.
When postpartum visitors descend in Japan to see the new addition, the gifts are very different. The friends and family will bring presents of food for the baby. Giving the bay food as gifts is thought to signify giving power to them. The more food the little ones receive, the stronger and more powerful they will be throughout their childhood and into their adult life.
Now, in modern Japan, there is a new fad for giving a gift of baby items arranged as sushi.
15. A VERY SPECIAL KEEPSAKE
An old story in Japan is that there was once a mom who was so delirious with happiness when she had her baby, that she kept and preserved her little one’s umbilical cord in a box as a memento of the precious moment of giving birth.
Somehow this became a tradition, and now all Japanese mothers keep the umbilical cord of their child in a beautiful box called the Kotobuki Bako. Inside the Kotobuki Bako, you will find a tiny doll dressed in a kimono. This doll represents the baby, and the kimono is often pulled aside and the umbilical placed within.
If a woman in Japan has a hospital birth, she is often presented with the Kotobuki Bako by the staff when she is discharged. It is believed that by preserving the umbilical cord, you are ensuring a positive mother-baby bond.