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Why Japanese Baby Carriers are So Popular Among Mothers?

Question

Reader Linda Vella from Alberta, Canada, asked: Why Japanese Baby Carriers are So Popular Among Mothers?

As a mother looking for a comfortable and practical way to carry my baby, I am curious about the popularity of Japanese baby carriers. I have heard about the benefits of baby-wearing and am interested in the specific features and advantages of Japanese carriers, as well as their cultural significance. I have seen them being used by other mothers in my community or online and am curious about why they seem to be preferred by many. Overall, I am looking for insights into the appeal and practicality of Japanese baby carriers, and how they compare to other types of carriers on the market.

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Answer

Thank you, Linda, for your question on why Japanese baby carriers are so popular among mothers. This is an interesting topic that I would love to explore further. In this article, I will delve into the history of Japanese baby carriers, their cultural significance, and their practicality in modern Japanese society. I hope this article will provide you with some insight into this phenomenon.

Why are baby slings so popular among Japanese mothers?

Japanese mothers can be seen carrying their babies around in slings or baby carriers, whether at home or out and about. This is because baby carriers are a safe, comfortable, and convenient option for mothers in any situation.

Why Japanese Baby Carriers are So Popular Among Mothers?
Himo is the rope tied around Obi’s waist. Photo: kimono-gokoro

The roots of baby carriers in ancient Japan

Utamaro Kitagawa’s work at the Harvard Art Museum depicts a mother carrying her baby.

In ancient Japanese society, women would wear a kimono as their daily attire, even after giving birth. However, after a short confinement period, women would have to resume their daily tasks such as housework, trading, farming, and taking care of their children. To manage these tasks simultaneously, mothers used obi belts and himo ropes tied around their kimono to carry their babies while working.

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Japanese mother with her child | Wikipedia Commons

This gave birth to the term “Onbuhimo – おんぶ紐” (baby carrier), combining “Onbu – carrying on back” and “Himo – rope”. By 1953, companies in post-war Japan started specializing in producing obi belts specifically for carrying babies. In the late 60s, more modern designs of onbuhimo were commercialized in Japan, using baby back pads, cloth loops, and himo-style straps that run under the baby’s feet to create a seat. Today, baby carrier products from foreign and Japanese brands are popular in Japan and used to this day.

The importance of baby carriers in modern Japan

In 1950, British psychologist John Bowlby published a report that suggested that mothers working outside the home during the first three years of their child’s life could cause mental problems for the child. Although this research has been disproved, it created a strong belief in Japanese society known as the “Legend of the First Three Years”. This belief continues to this day.

Additionally, the problem of “Taiki jidou mondai” (waiting-list children) also contributes to the popularity of baby carriers. This condition occurs when children are enrolled in facilities like kindergartens and daycares, but there are no available seats for them. Japan is currently facing a serious shortage of human resources in child care facilities, especially with more and more mothers wanting to return to work soon after giving birth.

In 2011, the average working rate for mothers with children under the age of three in OECD countries was 51.4%. However, in Japan, it was only 29.8%. This shows how important baby carriers are in Japan as they allow mothers to carry their children with them while doing other tasks.

Author’s Message

I would like to extend my gratitude to you for asking such an insightful question about the popularity of Japanese baby carriers. As I explored the topic further in my article, I was able to delve into the rich history and tradition behind these carriers, as well as their unique features and benefits. It is clear that these carriers have gained popularity among mothers not only in Japan but also around the world, and I hope that my answer provided you with valuable insights into why this is the case. Thank you once again for your question, and if you have any further inquiries, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Noah

You see, my love for Japan is not only based on personal experience; it's based on a deep admiration for Japanese culture, history, and traditions. Thank you, Japan, for being a constant source of inspiration, joy, and wonder in my life. I may never be able to express my love for Japan in person, but I hope that through my blog and my writing, I can share a small piece of my admiration and devotion with the world.

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