Celebrating Okuizome: A Journey Through Japan’s Traditional First Meal Ceremony

Hello, this is Ayamegu(@ayakami_meguru). I will write about Okuizome(お食い初め) this time.

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The Historical Roots of Okuizome

Okuizome, also known as “the first meal ceremony,” is a deeply rooted Japanese tradition that marks a significant milestone in a newborn’s life. This ceremony, held when a baby is around 100 days old, symbolizes the wish for the child to have a lifetime free from hunger. The history of Okuizome dates back to the Heian period (794-1185), where it began as a noble practice and gradually spread to the general populace.

In ancient times, the ceremony was believed to bestow health and prosperity upon the child, ensuring they would never go hungry. The choice of 100 days is symbolic, as it is thought that by this age, infants begin to show signs of their future personalities and eating habits. The ceremony thus serves as a ritualistic introduction to solid foods, although the baby does not actually eat the food offered.

The practice has evolved over centuries but maintains its core purpose: to bless the child with a future of good health and sufficient nourishment. Today, it is celebrated with a sense of joy and community, often involving family members who come together to prepare and participate in the event.

For more on the historical context of Okuizome, visit Nippon.com.

The Symbolism Behind the Ceremony

The Okuizome ceremony is rich with symbolism, each element carefully chosen to convey wishes for the child’s well-being. The traditional meal includes specific foods and utensils, each carrying a distinct meaning.

  1. Red Rice (Sekihan): This dish is made with glutinous rice and red beans, symbolizing happiness and the ability to ward off evil spirits. Red is a color associated with good fortune and protection in Japanese culture.
  2. Grilled Sea Bream (Tai): Known for its auspicious name, which sounds like the word for “celebration” (medetai), sea bream represents the wish for the child to have a life full of joyous occasions. Its prominence in the meal highlights its importance in bringing good luck.
  3. Octopus (Tako): Often included for its symbolism of flexibility and adaptability, qualities hoped for in the child’s future. The many legs of the octopus also signify the ability to overcome obstacles.
  4. Pickles (Tsukemono): These are included for their preservative qualities, symbolizing the wish for the child’s longevity and resilience.
  5. Clear Soup (Osumashi): Usually containing clams or other shellfish, representing the purity and clarity desired in the child’s future.
  6. Small Stone (Hagatame no Ishi): Traditionally, a small stone is placed on the tray, symbolizing the wish for the child to grow strong teeth, which is essential for good health and nourishment.

The food is arranged on a special set of lacquered dishes and trays, often in red and black, which are traditionally used for festive occasions. The eldest member of the family, typically a grandparent, will pretend to feed the baby in a ceremonial manner, symbolizing the passing down of health and longevity.

For more on the symbolic foods used in Okuizome, visit Japan Info.

Modern Adaptations and Celebrations

While the essence of Okuizome remains unchanged, modern families have adapted the ceremony to fit contemporary lifestyles and preferences. These adaptations reflect the blend of tradition and modernity in Japanese culture.

  1. Restaurant Celebrations: Many families opt to hold the Okuizome ceremony at traditional Japanese restaurants, which offer special Okuizome packages. This not only simplifies the preparation but also ensures that the ceremony is conducted properly, with all symbolic foods and utensils provided.
  2. Home Ceremonies: Some families prefer to celebrate at home, often incorporating personal touches to the ceremony. This might include using heirloom dishes or preparing the meal with ingredients significant to the family’s heritage. Home ceremonies offer a more intimate setting, allowing for a personalized and heartfelt celebration.
  3. Incorporating Modern Foods: While traditional foods are still used, some families include additional dishes that reflect their personal tastes or dietary restrictions. This might include vegetarian or vegan options, or dishes from the family’s cultural background if they are of mixed heritage.
  4. Professional Photography: It is increasingly common to hire professional photographers to document the ceremony. These photos become cherished keepsakes, capturing the family’s joy and the child’s milestone in beautiful, lasting images.
  5. Virtual Celebrations: In today’s digital age, families who cannot gather in person might opt for virtual celebrations. Using video conferencing tools, family members can participate in the ceremony remotely, ensuring that everyone can share in the special occasion despite physical distances.

These modern adaptations ensure that Okuizome remains a relevant and cherished tradition, allowing each family to celebrate in a way that best suits their needs and preferences. For more on modern adaptations of Okuizome, visit Live Japan.

How to Prepare for an Okuizome Ceremony

Preparing for an Okuizome ceremony involves careful planning and attention to detail. Here are some steps to ensure a meaningful and successful celebration:

  1. Select a Date: Traditionally, the ceremony is held when the baby is around 100 days old. However, families can choose a date that is convenient and significant to them.
  2. Gather the Required Items: Ensure you have all the necessary items, including the special lacquered dishes, chopsticks, and symbolic foods. Many stores in Japan offer Okuizome sets, which include all the required utensils and dishes.
  3. Prepare the Food: Whether you are cooking at home or ordering from a restaurant, make sure to include the traditional symbolic foods. Pay attention to presentation, as the aesthetic aspect of the meal is an important part of the ceremony.
  4. Plan the Ritual: Decide who will perform the feeding ritual. It is usually the eldest member of the family, but you can choose anyone who holds significance to your family.
  5. Decorate the Venue: If you are hosting the ceremony at home, consider decorating the space to create a festive atmosphere. Traditional Japanese decorations, flowers, and family heirlooms can add to the ambiance.
  6. Invite Family and Friends: Okuizome is a family-centered event. Invite close family members and friends to join in the celebration. If they cannot attend in person, consider setting up a virtual meeting so they can participate remotely.
  7. Capture the Moment: Whether through professional photography or your own camera, document the ceremony. These photos will be treasured memories that your child can look back on when they grow older.

For a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for an Okuizome ceremony, visit Tokyo Creative.


Okuizome is a beautiful and meaningful tradition that celebrates a significant milestone in a child’s life. Steeped in history and symbolism, this ceremony not only blesses the child with hopes of a prosperous and healthy future but also brings families together in a shared cultural practice.

As modern adaptations make the ceremony accessible and relevant to contemporary families, Okuizome continues to be a cherished practice in Japan and among Japanese communities worldwide. Whether celebrated in a traditional or modern manner, the essence of Okuizome remains a heartfelt expression of love and good wishes for the newest member of the family.

By understanding and embracing the significance of Okuizome, families can ensure that this ancient tradition continues to bring joy and blessings for generations to come. For those interested in learning more or planning their own ceremony, resources like Japan Info offer valuable information and guidance.