Located in Takarazuka city, Nakayama temple (中山寺) is famous for blessing visitors with safe childbirth. The principal object of worship at this temple is a Jūichimen Kannon, or the Goddess of Mercy with eleven heads. It is believed the Kannon has her power to give babies and allow easy delivery. I went there on Thursday as part of the 5th month of my pregnancy.
For Japanese women, visiting a temple and being blessed during the 5th month of pregnancy is very important.
Looking at Nakayama Temple`s website, I found out that women from all over Japan visit this temple and are blessed by monks, and given a special `obi` (belt) which they have to wrap around their bellies to help support the growing baby. The whole process is not cheap (20,000yen) but for me, was an amazing experience.
After paying the fee, we waited for a monk, and were then taken into a very red, very ornate room.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside, so I pulled these ones from the website. Sorry they are so small.
After the monk taught me how to link my hands/fingers together properly in prayer, he chanted and chanted and prayed and prayed while we sat in silence. It was very interesting and all very serious until he had to slip my name (which he read from a piece of paper) into the prayer, and stumbled around the pronunciation a few times. Quite odd to hear my very un-Japanesey name in the middle of a very Japanese buddhist prayer.
After that, I was given a bag of goodies (2 white obi, and some incense etc. to use on the day of delivery).
An interesting fact about the obi is that there is a message written on each one, at the end of which is the Japanese character for boy「男」, or girl「女」, which should represent the gender of your future child. Many women told me that in the majority of cases, women actually give birth to a child of the opposite gender... my obi had the character for boy on it, so in a few more weeks, I should be able to confirm or deny that rumor.