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2015年1月15日 (木)

Koshougatsu & Azuki-gayu/小正月と小豆粥

While 1st January is called oo-shougatsu, literally big New Year, 15th January is ko-shougatsu, little New Year. It’s also called onna-shougatsu (female New Year) in some parts of Japan, since it’s regarded as a holiday for women who worked hard from the year end till New Year. Mochi shaped as cocoons are offered at a family altar, and fertility rites are held. Sagicho or dondo-yaki (people make bonfine and New Year decorations such as matsukazari and shimenawa are burned) is held on this day. Azuki-gayu (congee with red beans) is the breakfast of this day.



2015年1月11日 (日)

Kagami-biraki & Oshiruko/鏡開きとお汁粉

'Kagami-mochi' (New Year rice cake), which is offered to the 'Toshigami' (the God who brings agricultural fertility and safety of the family in the year), is to be split on 11th January. This is called kagami-biraki. The mochi is not cut by a knife but is split by hand or hammer, because it’s believed that the Toshigami is in the Kagami-mochi and the divine power is severed by “cutting/kiru” by a knife. Also, cutting by a knife is associated with hara-kiri among the samurai society of the Edo period (AD1603-1867).

By opening (hiraku) it, the god is sent off and New Year comes to an end. And the split mochi is served as ozoni and oshiruko, and people eat it, receiving the power from the god and wishing for good health.



2015年1月 7日 (水)


Jinjitsu,7th January, is one of the five sechinichi/yearly seasonal celebration days. In ancient China, 1st of January was the day for rooster, 2nd for dog, 3rd for wild boar, 4th for sheep, 5th for cow, 6th for horse, and 7th for human, and people judged their fortunes of the year. In the Tang era (AD618-907), they ate a soup with seven kinds of vegetables as a charm for disease-free. The custom was brought to Japan in the Heian period (AD794-1192), when there was a custom of picking young grass in snow. Nanakusa-gayu/congee with seven kinds of leaf vegetables is regarded as an integration of the two. The soup changed from soup to kayu/congee in the Kamakura period (AD 1338-1573), and became common in the Edo period (AD1603-1867). 

Spring nanakusa are seri, nazuna, gogyo, hakobera, hotokenoza, suzuna and suzushiro. You can buy a nanakusa package in supermarkets before 7th January.


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2015年1月 2日 (金)


Ozoni in origin was a soup prepared with offerings made to the gods, but now it’s a soup with mochi/rice cake and some other ingredients for New Year. There was a custom in the ancient times that the first day of a month starts from the evening the day before, therefore, it’s regarded that New Year starts from the evening on New Year’s Eve.  It’s said, ozoni originates that offerings (rice, mochi etc) made to the gods on New Year’s Eve were taken back after sunset and they were cooked with other ingredients.

There’re a variety of ozoni recipes, as it so much defers depending on regions and families. Round mochi is used in western Japan while square one is in the east.  It was originally seasoned with miso/soy bean paste, but samurai families disliked “miso o tsukeru (to put miso, which means to lose face or to blow up due to failure), therefore, they made the soup clear.

Shinto, not Buddhism, is a mainstream religion where my father grew up (Nagano). Therefore, his family started New Year feast on New Year’s Eve, and my family takes over the practice. My mother says ever year that the celebration of New Year should starts on that day and it’s so strange to start it the day before. It’s still understandable, if you know about the Shinto and the tradition from the ancient.

The ozone I cook is a clear soup (bonito and konbu/dried kelp) with curved vegetables; Satoimo/Japanese taro as crane (longevity), daikon/mouli as turtle (longevity), carrot as Japanese apricot flower (sing of spring), kamaboko/fish paste as knot (celebration), and komatsuna/chard as something green, and mochi.






2015年1月 1日 (木)


Osechi is a festive dish for the sechinichi/yearly seasonal celebration days. (There’re five sechinichi in a year; Jinjitu on 7th January, Joushi on 3rd March, Tango on 5th May, Shichiseki on 7th July and Chouyou on 9th September.) New Year is the sechinichi to welcome the god of rice field back from mountains. There’re several views for osechi in modern times; (osechi is prepared) not to make a kitchen restless while having the gods home on New Year, not to make the god of fire upset, to avoid using fire on New Year (practice in the Heian period, AD794-1192), and for women to be free from cooking for the first three days of the New Year.

Osechi is full of blessings from ocean and mountain, and each one of them has auspicious meaning such as agricultural fertility, health, longevity and so on. Served in tiered boxes became common in the mid of the Edo period (AD1603-1867), and this has also auspicious meaning to layer lucks.


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