The Ties that Bind: Pregnancy and the Persistence of Tradition in Contemporary Japan

in Asian Medicine

Abstract

This article explores the meaning and use in Japan of the hara obi (belly band), first attested in the eighth-century chronicle Kojiki, tracing its changing medical, religious, ritual, and literary significance up to the present day. While some Tokugawa-era doctors disparaged the hara obi’s medical value, it continued to play a role in prenatal care which continues today, a role enhanced by its function as a religious talisman and an object of folk tradition. This complex of effective and affective meanings has contributed to the hara obi’s survival alongside modern birth technology, a survival chronicled and reflected upon by contemporary Japanese women’s writing on pregnancy and childbirth.

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The Ties that Bind: Pregnancy and the Persistence of Tradition in Contemporary Japan

in Asian Medicine

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