22nd of December is TOUJI in Japan
The 22nd of December is Touji (冬至) in Japan. This day has the longest night in a year and is one of Shijuu-sekki. In my house we would eat pumpkin and after dinner, I always had a bath with Yuzu (柚子) fruit floating around. My father would tell me that I´d be able to avoid getting cold during the winter by having these things. Is this one of another superstitions of ancient Japanese?
Traditionally in China and Japan, Touji was considered as the day that the sun has the least power during the year. And after this day, the sun recovers its power a little by little. It´s the day when Ying reaches the peak and back to Yang, which people called Ichiyo Raifuku (一陽来復) and believed that they would have good luck.
Why pumpkin? Pumpkin in Japanese is Kabocha and is written as 南瓜. The second character "瓜 (Uri)" means gourd in general. The first character "南(Minami)" means the south. The ancient Japanese people thought by changing from the north (Ying) to the south (Yang) was the sign of getting good lucks. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and carotene, which are effective against cold. Although they are summer vegetables, ancient people kept them for winter in order to get nutrition.
Why Yuzu? There is a story that the sound Touji is the same as Touji (湯治), which means spa treatment. But this isn´t quite right. Having Yuzu bath means purification. In the old time, people didn´t have a bath everyday like now but they did for some important events, Shougatsu (正月/a New Year) or Touji were one of them. Yuzu is a mandarin family and the season is in winter. Also the trees live long time and don´t get diseases easily. Using Yuzu was a pure wish for people to live longer and healthy. Apart from it was easy to get, its strong smell was believed to get rid of bad spirits.
Of course we cannot forget about its side effect. Yuzu is rich in vitamin C and citric acid, which is good for the skin. Also it warms you up and protects you from getting cold. Now you may want to go to a supermarket to find one for tonight.
Our favourite Japanese sweets shop, Osakaya has been busy these days. They are making Yuzu jam. First, grate the skin, like the photo above. Its fresh smell filled the entire factory and started coming out to the hallway. And here, Osakaya handmade Yuzu jam.
The rest of the fruits were taken out of the shop for whoever wanted to take for Yuzu bath.
As a child, I always took bath the first in the family. Naturally when I entered, there were complete shaped fruits floating in the bath. How I enjoyed squashing those half cooked Yuzu. It wasn´t quite hard but soft either, rather a strange texture. I squeezed one by one. My parents then told me off by doing it because the seeds and fruit meat stuck in the drain and they had to clean it afterwards… Hahaha, kids. But I can tell you, I would do the same even now.
Until yesterday, Yuzu Manju was available at Osakaya. Fresh citrus Anko, hmmm, tempting.
A good thing about Wagashi (和菓子) is making you notice a little change of the season and taste it with your eyes and tongues. It´s a way to respect the nature and live with it.
Now, I´ll make some pumpkin soup for Touji night.
More about what day is today in Japan.
More about Japanese bath