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Parents of newborn children in Japan are sending bags of rice that weigh the same as their infants to relatives who want to hug the babies but can’t visit them during the pandemic.
Some of the rice bag designs are shaped like blanket-swaddled babies, and feature a picture of the child’s face on the front, reported The Guardian. A typical 7.5-pound rice baby costs around $32, with heavier bags fetching a higher price.
The practice of sending these rice baby bags is called “Dakigokochi” in Japan, and they’re also often used at weddings, per The Guardian. The bride and groom give their parents bags with photos of the couple as children in order to show appreciation.
Now that Japan’s population is in decline and fewer babies are being born there, the wedding orders are starting to dominate the market, rice shop owners said.
Dakigokochi is not a particularly new phenomenon, but the COVID pandemic has resulted in an uptick in demand because long-distance relatives cannot travel to wedding ceremonies or visit newborn babes, they said.
Japan has extended its state of emergency in several areas and recommended stay-home restrictions as the country grapples with its largest spike in cases so far over the last few weeks.