Oct 4, 2018
Raising kids in Japan has opened my eyes to a whole other side of Japan I wouldn't have known otherwise. Take for example the very practical and cost saving practise of osagari 「お下がり」. Osagari which literally means 'pass down' is the Western equivalent of hand-me-downs, passing on clothes and items that children have outgrown.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my next door neighbor, whom I had being passing pleasantries with since we first moved in, knocked on my door for the first time. After apologizing for disturbing me, she asked me if she could trouble me to offer some second hand items for my baby. I told her that it was no trouble at all and I would gladly and eagerly receive anything she wanted to pass down.
She went next door to retrieve the items. I could see her shadow coming to the door three times, before she finally rang the bell again. And there, on my door step, was a soon-to-be new mother's dream; an assortment of large and expensive baby goods in pristine condition. Of the items she handed down to me that day, three of them we had planned to buy new. Not only did she save us the hassle, she saved us the cost. If we had of bought everything she gave us that day, it would have cost us over 50,000 yen to do so.
Included in the bundle of items was a stroller, a high-lo chair and a bouncing chair. They were so impeccably clean to this day I wonder if she ever used them at all with her one and only child. I used each item for all four of my children before passing them on to neighbors and friends. I tried to pay her for the items, but she was mortified. My Japanese husband explained that she would never want or expect money for osagari, but we should do okaeshi: the Japanese practice of bestowing a present in return for large gifts received.
Later more neighbors came forward to hand us down items and clothes they no longer used. My foreign friends who had learned about the custom from their own pregnancies, followed suit. And I can honestly say that in the first five years of my first born's life I bought him no clothes other than socks and underwear. We did buy a few larger items such as a cot, child seats and high chairs, that we then used for our next three children, before passing them on.
For my daughters I still haven't bought many clothes at all. We have a lot of people in our life who have girls and all of them pass down not only clothes that they are finished with, but supplies for school and toys and games too. I have one foreign friend (who I am eternally grateful to) who single handedly created our jigsaw puzzle and DVD collection when she handed us down (many times) all the stuff her kids were finished with. She also gave me my kids' first bike that is still being used by my youngest child.
My youngest child is finally out of the baby stage. And I have already passed on much of the items we no longer use that were still in good enough condition to pass on. As she gets older I will continue to pass on the clothes and toys the kids have outgrown. It is a wonderful feeling passing on things for others to continue to use. Osagari has saved me an absolute fortune and has allowed my family to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly life.
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.