The Japanese calendar and the day of nanakusa gayu

You can learn a lot about Japan just by looking at its calendar. Full of surprises and very interesting facts, the Japanese calendar is a door to the traditions and culture of Japan. For example, did you know that the 7th of January is called “nanakusa no sekku”?

Written “七草の節句”, nanakusa no sekku means the “feast of the Seven Herbs of Health”. Although written on calendars and agenda, Japanese poeple are more likely calling this day as the “nanakusagayu” day! Born 1000 years ago in the Japanese Imperial Calendar, the tradition wants that humans would be protected from the evil spirits of the New Year by eating a soup made of seven herbs, called “nanakusagayu”, 七草粥 on the 7th of January. In Japanese, “nana” means seven and is written with this kanji “七” while “kusa”, “草” means herb.

Whether this soup has magical property or not, one fact is sure: the nanakusa gayu soup is easy on the stomach and consumed to rest the digestive system that may have been weakened by the food that is consumed during the first days of the New Year. The herbs will vary regions to regions but the tradition was spread all accross Japan during the Heian and Edo period. Nowadats, after the New Year celebrations, Japanese people let their stomach rest with with the “nanakusa gayu”.

The nanakusa gayu day is also known as the “jinjitsu” day. Written with the kanji for human, “jin”, “人” and for day, “jitsu” “日”, litteraly the “Human Day”, it means the “The Day of Mankind”: a day during which no harm comes to humans.

A:おばあさん、七草粥 のレシピって、知っていますか。学校で七草の節句について話したんですが、全然知りませんでした。

A: Obaasan, nanakusagayu no reshipi tte, shitte imasu ka. Gakkou de nanakusa no sekku ni tsuite hanashita ndesu ga, zenzen shirimasen deshita.
B: Ee, shitte imasu ne. Wakai monodesukara ne. Issho ni tsukuritaidesu ka.
A: Hai, onegaishimasu!
B: Mazu, nanakusa gayu no kusa o oshiemasu: Seri to nazuna to gogyō to hakobe to hotokenoza to suzuna to rafuku desu.
A: Sugoidesu ne、 obaasan!

A: Grandmother, do you know the recipe of rice porridge with seven herbs?
B: Yes, I know it. Do you want to make it with me?
A: Yes, please!
B: First, I will tell you the seven herbs of the nanakusa gayu: the Water dropwort, the Shepherd’s Purse, the Cudweed, the Chickweed, theNipplewort, the Turnip and the radish.
A: Grand mother, that’s great!

After the New Year’s celebrations it is not a bad idea to go easy on the meals and to enjoy warm and delicious soups, don’t you think? The day of the nanakusagayu is in truth, part of the 5 annual traditions of the Japanese imperial calendar called gosekku, 五節句. Still celebrated today, the 4 others are the 3rd of March, called joshi (上巳, the dolls festival), the 5th of May called tango (端午, the boy’s celebration), the 7th of July the famous tanabata festival, also called the “star festival” and finally, the 9th of September, chouyou, (重陽) the Chrysanthemum Festival.

Credit CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: hsohei
Title: 七草粥, nanakusa gayu
source: Flickr 

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