小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat)
July 7–11 温風至 Atsukaze itaru Warm winds blow
July 12–16 蓮始開 Hasu hajimete hiraku First lotus blossoms
July 17–22 鷹乃学習 Taka sunawachi waza o narau Hawks learn to fly
Tanabata is the 7th day of the 7th month and is called the star festival . It is the reuniting of lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi or the stars Vega and Altair separated all but for one night a year by the Milky Way.
It is also custom to write wishes on coloured strips of paper called Tanzaku and hang them on bamboo, as the warm winds blow the Tanabata decorations flutter in the breeze.
It is also custom to eat somen noodles on this day as they are said to represent the Milky Way. Maybe this year you could write messages of health for family and friends. You could also make a simple somen dish like the one on my Tanabata summer recipes, on there you will find more information about Tanabata.
Marine Day ,Umi no Hi also known as Sea day or Ocean day. A Japanese national holiday which is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in July. I was lucky enough to visit Enoshima island for Marine day one year ( see travel posts Enoshima & Kamakura) . This day is to give thanks for the ocean . Many people flock to the beaches on this day. On my summer recipes I have created some no fish meals for you to enjoy.
Have you ever visited Japan in the summer? If you have or you live there you know how hot and humid it can be. I have visited Japan once around this time to experience the Summer fireworks and marine day at the beach. I also feel lucky to have seen the vast lotus flower ponds.
Every season in Japan is an important part of Japanese culture, summer is no exception. The winds blow in the smell of the Katori-Senko a mosquito repellent incense that you may well see burning inside a pottery pig with a big snout called Kayari-buta ( buta means pig in Japanese) it is a common site in the Japanese summer.
The tinkling sound of wind bells or fuurin as they are known may be heard. Again giving a feeling of a cool breeze blowing . People may wear yukata and it is a popular time to dress in them for a Japanese summer festival or hanabi ( firework display ).
Remember to bring your Uchiwa a fan made of bamboo and paper it looks like a paddle it doesn’t fold.
The lotus only bloom for four days in the hot summer heat again like the cherry blossoms in spring showing that life is fleeting. I have fond memories of watching the dragonflies dance around the giant leaves and blooms both at the Hachiman-gu shrine in kamakura and the giant Shinobazu pond at Ueno.
The root of the lotus ( Renkon) have a significant meaning often used in New Years meals as it represents a clear view through the year. Lotus root is super tasty and can be used in hot pots, curry’s and stirfrys it is also nice as a pickle. Why not try making a meal with lotus root.
As I hear the cry’s of the hawks that fly above my house I’m missing Japan more and more and the thought of not being able to visit at this time is tough. I take solace in making food inspired by Japan, using Japanese ingredients I manage to find from Asian grocery stores. I try to see little bits of Japan in my every day life ( just the noise of a crow, smell of incense or the refreshment of Japanese tea). I like to celebrate and follow the seasonal traditions and customs when I can. Like making my Tanabata decorations. All these things help keep me close to Japan when I can’t be there in person. What do you do to feel close to Japan if you can’t be there ?
This years Tanabata decoration the Tanzaku this year have many wishes for health for the family. I wish you all good health.