At this time of year everything is in hibernation waiting to emerge again in the spring. This is the time of the shortest day the Winter Solstice known in the Japanese micro season as Touji ( Toji ) (冬至).
Touji has subdivisions
22nd December-26th self heal sprouts
乃東生 Natsukarekusa shōzu
27th December-31st Dears shed antlers
麋角解 Sawashika no tsuno otsuru
1st-4th January Wheat sprouts under snow
雪下出麦 Yuki watarite mugi nobiru
The 22nd of December is the winter solstice and in Japan it is custom to eat pumpkin and have a bath with Yuzu.
Japanese people celebrate the solstice as they welcome the return of longer days, they pray for good health and eat auspicious food. Japanese people like a hot bath or onsen and a bath with Yuzu at this time is called yuzu-yu and is perfect for relaxing and warming the body. I have some Yuzu bath salts from Japan that I will be using.
Yuzu is a winter citrus fruit and is known for its cleansing properties, it is said the strong smell of Yuzu will drive away evil spirits.
I also decided to make the perfect healthy and simple Japanese meal called yudofu ( hot water tofu ) with some lovely hot pot tofu from Hokkaidō.
The broth was kombu, tamari, mirin and Yuzu peel, and I served it with Yuzu ponzu, grated daikon radish and green onion. This meal is full of protein and minerals from the kombu.
I find that the peel freezes well and so can be dropped into a hot broth to give flavour at any time of year weather it’s in season or not. Yuzu is not a fruit that can be easily obtained in the UK and can be expensive but you can find Asian super markets selling Yuzu juice if you can’t get a fresh fruit. The Yuzu juice also makes nice tofu desserts and I have lots of Yuzu recipes on this website ( just do a search for Yuzu ).
Kabocha pumpkin is customarily eaten at the solstice, it is referred to as a good luck food which also fills the body with nourishment and vitamins. I have also lots of kabocha recipes on this website so just do a search if you would like to make something with kabocha pumpkin.
Itokoni a Shojin ryori dish of simmered kabocha, konnyaku,root vegetables, fried tofu and azuki beans is a popular meal. It is a regional Buddhist cuisine from Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures.
Others auspices foods are daikon radish, carrot, lotus root and ginnan, enjoy these to bring good health.
Over the new year there are many foods that are eaten for this reason. Why not check out some of my new year blog posts to find out how to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Oh-misoka) and New Year’s Day (Oshogatsu) Japan style.
I will of course be making my usual foods Toshikoshi soba, Ozoni and Osechi Ryori and you can find ideas and recipes for any of these by just either searching New Year or the separate items.
I hope everyone has a healthy winter solstice and a prosperous New Year.