Eat Porridge on the 7th of January in Japan
In Japan, there is a custom to eat rice porridge as a breakfast on the 7th of January. This porridge is called Nanakusa Gayu (七草がゆ). Nanakusa means seven grasses or herbs in this case and Kayu / Gayu is porridge in Japanese. It´s a porridge with seven different greens. Until the 7th of January, it´s Shougatsu (正月) in Japan and people keep eating special Shougatsu food. Eating porridge on the 7th is to take care of tired stomach. This custom started in Heian period (平安時代 794-1192) but some say that it started a little later, in Muromachi period (室町時代 1336-1573).
From the left upper right, Hotoke no za (ホトケノザ/ Henbit Deadnettle), Gogyou (ゴギョウ/ Jersey Cudweed), Suzuna (スズナ/ Turnip), Seri (セリ/ Japanese parsley), Suzushiro (スズシロ/ Daikon), Nazuna (ナズナ/ shepherd's-purse), Hakobera (ハコベラ/ Stellaria).
Don´t worry, apart from Suzuna which we call kabu (カブ) and Suzushiro which is daikon (大根), we don´t see or eat them usually. So, we just buy a pack like the photo, and mix with rice porridge and eat it. Easy!
I loved this when I was small. It reminded me the farmers´ food I saw in a famous Japanese animation about old folk tales, called Nippon Mukashi Banashi (日本昔話).
I don´t know why but the food in animations some how looks so yummy. Don´t you think? For example the bread and the soup in a Hayao Miyazaki´s anime, Castle in the sky always get my appetite.
It´s the same, just a porridge or a bowl of rice in Nippon Mukashi Banashi made me want to eat.
Here is the opening of the program.
Oh, we were talking about Nanakusa Gayu. I didn´t know but in some regions they sing a song when they mix the herbs. I guess the song changes depending on the regions but the one I found was this.
Toudo no tori to
Nihon no tori wo
Awasete gaccha gaccha
Seven herbs, Nazuna
A bird from China and
a bird from Japan
mixed them, gacha gaccha
After eating and drinking heavily during the Christmas, not a bad idea having a rice porridge to rest your stomach and have a new fresh start in 2012.