Food offerings to God

日常生活 Daily life

I was doing my daily bible time not to long ago and came across a verse that never intrigued me before as it did this time.

And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly. -Exodus‬ ‭25‬:‭30‬

God had just delivered the people of Israel from Egypt, the ten plagues and dividing of the Red Sea deliverance event, and was establishing Israel as a nation. There were many commandments God had for Israel but this time reading over Exodus 25:30 I asked myself why did God want bread placed before him? God never ate the bread. There are times in the Old Testament when the pre-incarnate Jesus makes a cameo but never to eat this bread. David Guzik’s commentary, at, comments on this verse saying “bread is necessary for survival, and the link was a reminder that fellowship with God was just as necessary for man.” A little later in Leviticus 24:7 God said it was to be a memorial. So the bread offering was a worship act acknowledging God’s presence with his people and man’s dependence on God being just as important as food… that makes sense though there is much more that can be drawn out of the significance of this bread.

I share all of this because this bible verse helped me to understand better the custom of offering food to gods and venerated ancestors. Offering food is an act of acknowledging that those gods or ancestors presence are with them, or at the very least watching over them in some way. Most Japanese don’t think that deeply about it, they just see it as part of the culture… Though they do it wholeheartedly.

The kamidana, a miniature household alter built into the side of a wall in Japanese homes, is one place where food is offered. Usually it’s rice, a piece of fruit, or water. I asked my wife’s grandma what god her kamidana is for and she said it was the god of fire so that the kitchen wouldn’t burn down. The kamidana is after all next to the kitchen.

Many Japanese homes in the countryside that are culturally Buddhist have a butsudan. It’s like a cabinet where past ancestors are acknowledged and worshiped. My wife’s family doesn’t have one as they have Tenrikyo roots. It’s kind of strange, no one in the family really practices Tenrikyo except for Grandma… And Grandma doesn’t really believe and accept it. Grandma’s husband, who passed away many years before, was connected with Tenrikyo and she practices the customs out of respect to his family. They use something that’s like a really big kamidana that functions like a butsudan.

There are pictures of ancestors like what you might find in a butsudan but the setup is totally different, though there is a space to offer food.

Reading and looking more into Exodus 25:30 helped me to understand more about the strong traditions and beliefs connected with food offerings. I’m not saying that the offering of bread in the Old Testament is exactly the same as the food offerings custom in Japanese culture, but there is some overlap. The bible is a multicultural book and we can learn about other cultures and customs from it. Your interest in trying to understand Japanese customs just might be an extra step to helping someone in that culture gain an interest in wanting to understand and know the God of the bible.



Maternity health record book past and present

日常生活 Daily life

Once you become pregnant in Japan the government requires Japanese citizens to register it at the local city hall. They give mama to be something like a maternity badge to wear or attach to a purse or something that lets others know to be helpful and show extra courtesy. When my wife got hers she could sit in priority seating on trains and it was generally expected that if there were no seats available that someone would give theirs up for her.

Something else she got that was of much greater importance was the maternal and children’s health and handbook. All prenatal check ups required her to have this handbook to record the progress of the baby and mother’s development. After a baby is born parents are required to keep and use it for health check ups, immunizations, and development of the child until age five. Each child has a health handbook, if you have twin babies then you have two books. Each city has their own design for the health record books but the information inside is pretty much all the same.

I just find it interesting as it is so different from the American system, this way is so convenient and helpful. Spending so much time with my wife’s parents lately we found the health handbook my wife’s mother had for her when she was born. Aside from the design there hasn’t been much change in these books in over 30 years. The one on the right is the one that we use now, the one on the left is the one my wife’s mother used.

There is additional information included inside that’s interesting and helpful too. The chart from both books here is for recording the growth for girls after being born.

About the only difference I could see was that the newer health handbook had a few more diagrams and charts. The average height and weight from birth to adult is interesting to see at a glance.

The new book also included helpful information on nutritional guidelines, how to clear something from a baby’s throat, how to give a baby CPR, and other helpful information that the older book didn’t have.

If my wife and I ever have a baby born in America we will tell you the difference ;). This is just one aspect of the whole process of having a kid in Japan.




日常生活 Daily life