During the lockdowns caused by COVID-19, families and friends have been getting creative to hug. In Japan—like most of the world—holding your loved ones close is still risky, particularly for the elderly or immunocompromised. Travel is also limited. Luckily, the Kome no Zoto Yoshimiya rice shop has created a sweet solution to involve families (no matter how far) in the big moments of life. Naruo Ono—owner of the Kitakyushu-based shop—creates decorative rice bags in the exact birth weights of newborn babies so that their extended families can get the joy of holding a new arrival.
Ono made the shop's first rice baby many years ago. “I first had the idea about 14 years ago when my own son was born and I was thinking about what I could do for relatives who lived far away and couldn’t come and see him. So we decided to make bags of rice that were the same weight and shape as the baby, so relatives could hold them and feel the cuteness,” Ono told The Guardian. This idea was revived during the pandemic, when more than sheer distance prevented warm embraces.
The rice babies are filled to the exact birth weight of a child. A rice baby weighing seven pounds 11 ounces would cost ¥3,500 (about $32). The bundles of joy come in plain, yet beautiful wrapped styles. There are also more ornate options that look like tiny swaddled babes. Families can opt to put a photo of their little one on the bag so that grandparents and relatives far away can cradle and gaze upon their newest family member.
The Yoshimiya shop also offers these rice babies as wedding gifts. Bought by the bride and groom in their birth weights, they can be presented to parents—whether present or far away—as tribute to the people who created the happy couple. For births and weddings, the rice babies (known as Dakigokochi) have become very popular across Japan. The Yoshimiya shop prides itself on its realistically shaped bags that give the perfect cuddle. They're so realistic, in fact, that people seem to have a hard time going from cuddling to consuming the rice. Ono says, “People say they have a hard time opening them up and eating the rice.” Perhaps they're so cute that you can't eat them.
Families separated during the pandemic in Japan are finding clever ways to stay connected. Many are sending huggable bags of rice to represent their newborn.
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h/t: [The Guardian]