Baby showers, treats for moms-to-be all the rage

by Tomoko Arima

Kyodo

Baby showers, a mainly American tradition of holding special parties for expectant mothers to celebrate the imminent arrival of their babies, are gradually gaining popularity in Japan.

Tokyo Baby Cafe, a cafe near Tokyo’s Omotesando boulevard with an indoor playroom for babies and toddlers, launched in August a “baby shower service plan” that offers an opportunity for friends and family members of a mom-to-be to throw a party for her.

Several major hotels have also begun offering similar services.

While it is customary in Japan to send gifts after the birth of a baby, the purpose of a baby shower is to give the expectant mother a relaxing time with her friends and family to receive their support and encouragement before becoming preoccupied with her baby.

“As most babies that pass the second trimester of pregnancy are born without complications nowadays thanks to medical advances, the American custom is gradually being adopted in Japan,” said Midori Tomida, head of Tokyo-based event planning agency Babyshower Japan.

Along with the new trend, the range of gift choices is also expanding.

Although the mainstream remains baby clothing, blankets, toys and the like, new types of presents focus more on pampering the moms-to-be — such as gift certificates for housekeeping services.

Bears Co., a housekeeping service provider headquartered in Tokyo, started selling such coupons in July last year as gifts for expectant mothers, allowing them to choose either 2½ hours’ worth of housework or to have particular places such as a bathroom or kitchen cleaned. Sales are growing steadily, a company official said.

A 34-year-old Tokyo resident received one such coupon from a childhood friend when she gave birth to her second son.

“I was really grateful,” she said, as the grease and dirt in the kitchen and elsewhere around the house had weighed on her mind. “I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, from taking care of the children,” she recalled. Thanks to the gift coupon, her house is now spick-and-span.

Akachan Honpo Co., a major chain store for baby goods headquartered in Osaka, is also considering selling gift certificates for services to clean air conditioners and bathtubs next year.

“There is a growing interest recently in alternatives such as gift catalogs, from which the receiver can pick her present of choice, and housekeeping services,” said an Akachan Honpo official.

“Many second-generation baby boomers (around 40 years old) are relatively unattached to customs,” said marketing writer Megumi Ushikubo.

“They tend to feel they deserve to be treated or rewarded for their hard work, and their friends also understand such feelings,” Ushikubo said. “I believe this is reflected in the celebrations and gifts presented.”