• Shainna M. Callaway

My Daughter is Shinto

Updated: Mar 2

When I lived in Japan, I learned about their traditional religions and was invited by friends to have my newborn daughter blessed at Konno Hachimangu Shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo. A quarter of my familial background is Japanese from my paternal grandmother, so it felt like a way to connect with my genetic roots. I was grateful for the opportunity because she was my first child and this particular blessing, Omiya Mairi, was meant to provide her with a safe passage through infancy.

This photo was taken during Sumire's Omiya Mairi at Konno Hachimangu Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, in Nippon 2013.

I had no idea the implications of the blessing and the effects it would have on my little girl, but she couldn’t have lucked into a better path. There are so many questions I still have about the religion, but one things is certain, my daughter is a shinto baby. She absolutely loves being in nature!


As a baby, when she was teething and complaining about even the tiniest thing, it was very hard to please her. She had to be held, comforted, fed, sung to, and constantly hold my attention or she would behave as if the entire world was ending, and it was all my fault. She is still quite dramatic, hopelessly romantic, and a true girly girl full of rainbows and princess dreams. I adore her, my Sumire chan.


While living in Japan those two glorious years, I was able to connect with family I had never met before. It has been an amazing and fulfilling reunion for I have finally found relatives with similarities in personalities and interests! The daughter of the man that my father used to travel with when he visited Japan became my travel buddy as well! It felt like we were destined to continue the friendship that our fathers began with each other. Now, it is like we have known each other our whole lives.


As both my parents have already passed, the Kamoshidas have taken in my heart the role of parents to me. They would invite me to spend the day with them almost weekly and would swing by to pick up Sumire chan and I for a surprise outing. I rarely knew where we would end up that day, but it was almost always a park, garden, or somewhere fantastic in nature.


Sumire chan and the Kamoshida family on various trips throughout Nippon in 2014.

As soon as we would begin to enter under the canopy of trees, Sumire would completely transform. Her tears from the teething pain would instantly stop and a smile would come over her adorable fat little face. She loved being in forests! It was as if all the pain would disappear from her tiny body. Perhaps it was the coolness of the shade and the loveliness of our surroundings, or perhaps it was from her blessing and initiation into the “nature” religion. Even my cousins would notice and simply say “Shinto!” as if to point out that Sumire was indeed an American shinto baby.


When she turned three, we returned to Japan to specifically continue the tradition of having her blessed by a shinto priest but this time it was at the Samukawa Shrine in Kanagawa prefecture. Her Jiiji (Kamoshida san) and Baaba (Keiko san) gifted her with a beautiful kimono set for her right of passage. With her family and friends joining her, she sat reverently alongside a crowd of children which included her friend since birth, Hajime kun, for their ritual blessing, Shichi Go San.


In the years since our departure from Japan, I have heard my daughter complain and gripe about being bored in our travels, but once inside a garden and especially in a shaded park, I will hear her say things like, “This is the best day ever!! How did you know about this place?”


She is my favorite subject to photograph in a world full of gardens. Named after the violet flower, she blooms before me and captivates my attention with the way she experiences the world around her. She is truly an amazing little girl and a wonderful person to see the world alongside through her “shinto” eyes.


Much love and kind regards from a proud Momma, Shainna 👩‍👧🌼


This photo with Mt. Fuji in the background was taken in 2016

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-Shainna Mathilda (Dusoe) Callaway