Cakes, cups of tea, laughter – and mamatomo. This pretty much sums up the things that sustained me (and my sanity) when I first became a mother in Tokyo, thousands of miles from family in London.
It was while pregnant that I learnt one of my favourite – and most useful – Japanese words: mamatomo, which loosely translates as “mama friend” (a mix of mama and tomodachi meaning friend).
I was particularly lucky. Despite my three sisters and close friends being painfully far away on the other wide of the world, I met a string of funny, inspiring and supportive mothers-to-be at a pregnancy yoga class in Tokyo – and we became firm mamatomo.
Yoga quickly became a prelude to a bigger highlight – waddling to a nearby café where we would all talk at the same time while swapping notes on everything from our alien physical transformations and where to buy baby carriers to birth plans (against a backdrop of copious cake-eating and raucous giggling).
Following the arrival of our half a dozen babies over a particularly hot and humid Tokyo summer, their support was even more critical as we navigated the early days of motherhood – plus it gave each of us a reason to get dressed and out of the house with our newborns, mainly to eat cake and laugh (rather than cry) over our sleep deprivation.
Among them was my particularly glamorous mamatomo Sayaka Koshi, a former private investor who had a little girl Kyouka chan just weeks after the arrival of my daughter Kiko Blossom – and who never seized to amaze me by meeting up for early post-baby gatherings looking immaculate (normally in top-to-toe white without a single baby blemish, plus perfectly manicured nails).
Sayaka still recalls how valuable our special mamatomo friendships were at that time: “Looking back, I can’t imagine going through those days without mamatomo. It was a major transition and it would have been very different without those friendships. It was both supporting and inspiring.”
Fast-forward nearly six years and mamatomo friendships remain equally vital – even if the focus has switched from breastfeeding to schools. But it’s while watching our girls play together in a local park, Sayaka perhaps best sums up how things have evolved: “Many of these friendships started as mamatomo but now it’s not just about children – they have since become much-loved tomodachi (friends).”
Words and photos by Danielle Demetriou.
Danielle is wearing the Standing Collar Shirt in Rose Pink
Kiko Blossom is wearing the Nubia Dress in Pale Blue
Sayaka is wearing the Gathered Dress in Mint/Pink Geo Silk