[Ejiko and Warakago]
We sell Waramu's Warakago (straw baskets) in our store. Customers often ask us, "Is this the basket you put the baby in?"
Until about 70 years ago, "ejiko" was a childcare tool to put infants in. It was one of the folk tools used to hold the rice straw left after harvesting rice, and was used mainly by people who made their living in agriculture, forestry, and fishing, and was a traditional Japanese method of childcare along with carrying and onbu.
It is said that the original "iizume," a basket made of rice straw used to keep the rice in to keep it warm so that it would not get cold, was used as a tool for childcare. Its name varied by region, and it was called by various names such as izuko, izumi, izume, itsuko, tsugura, tsubura, kurumi, fugo, and so on. In addition to straw woven into a cylindrical shape, some were made of wood or bamboo.
The ejiko was a tool used to keep infants safely indoors or near the workplace when farm work required long hours away from home. The bottom of the ejiko was covered with rice husks, straw, or ashes to make it easier to clean up after an infant peed. To prevent the infant from slipping out of the ejiko, it was wrapped in bedding or cloth and secured inside. Because the bottom of the ejiko was slightly curved, it could be rocked with a light push, and it was also a cradle that provided adequate heat retention.
After the war, people became more concerned about childcare, and the ejiko began to be discussed as having a negative impact on child development and health, and the number of ejikos declined. I asked my mother, who is from Shizuoka, if she knew about it, and she told me that it was called a "biku" and was usually used as a cradle when going outside to work on the farm, usually as a container for crops, and that she grew up in a biku. She fondly remembers that it was also used as a bed for stray dogs.
Nowadays, you can see its shape in folk art dolls, such as the "Izumeko doll," which is made in the shape of an infant in an ejiko. "Neko chigura/neko tsugura," made with the ejiko as inspiration, are loved by cats that like warm and cramped places.
Waramu's Waraizumi #3
Kurikyu's Magewappa Ohitsu
Tsuruya Shoten's Cat House "nejiro"