Chrysanthemum Day 菊の節句 Kiku no Sekku also known as Chōyō no sekku (重陽の節句) is the last of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan (Gosekku 五節句).
The 9th of the 9th is said to be very auspicious in Japanese culture . It coincides with the blooming of the chrysanthemum and is a time when festivals took place at the Japanese imperial court.
The chrysanthemum is the symbol of the emperor of Japan and is the official flower of Japan.. You will see it on the imperial seal, you will find it on the Japanese passport, the 50 yen coin, and you may see the emblem at shrines like the one on the gates at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo.
Chrysanthemum growing is a much practiced hobby with people entering contests for the best blooms. It takes lots of love and care to grow the perfect flower.
Chrysanthemum Day is observed by drinking chrysanthemum sake sprinkled with chrysanthemum petals. This is known as Kikuzake. These flowers were said to bring longevity, so drinking the sake was a symbol of a long and happy life. I have served the sake here with some chestnut wagashi ( recipe for this can be found on my autumn recipe pages.
Other things for this day we’re bathing with chrysanthemum flowers much like the bathing with Yuzu for the winter solstice A practice of covering the flowers over with a cloth over night outside and wiping your face with the dewy cloth in the morning for young looking skin was also observed.
On this day it is tradition for people to eat chestnut rice “Kurigohan”. In order to celebrate the harvest, people will cook the kuri (chestnut) and Japanese rice with dashi, and then enjoy such kurigohan as a traditional food, other foods eaten today could be eggplant and In some regions, soba and amazake are also enjoyed.
I thought it would be nice to make Gomoku Gohan a five ingredient rice which included chestnuts to celebrate the last of the five seasonal festivals. There are also recipes for this and takikomi Gohan (mixed rice ) on my recipe pages. For this I added chestnuts, aburaage,carrots, kiriboshi daikon and shimeji mushrooms. I soaked the rice in a kombu shiitake dashi including some of the water from reconstituting the dried daikon adding tamari and mirin to the soaking water. Just add the ingredients on top of the rice but do not mix. Cook the rice and when done gently fold in the ingredients then put the lid on to steam for a further ten minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Another food to eat on the auspicious day is eggplant so to go with the rice I simply steamed a whole peeled eggplant and made a delicious sesame miso dressing for it. Served as a Teishoku set meal on a tray with chilled tofu and a simple broth with vegetables, pickles, chilled tofu and for dessert the September seasonal star figs with a sweet miso glaze.
As they are such auspicious flowers, chrysanthemums often appear as a motif on pottery So why not use this pottery today to serve your food.
I have spoken before in previous posts about the Japanese word Fu-bu-tsu-shi the little things that signal the changing seasons. The key part of focusing on the here and now and celebrating the passing of time. I think this micro season is one of my favourites, already there is a mist across the fields in the early morning the name of this micro season (Hakuro meaning white dew breaks). The sky is dappled with altocumulus clouds ( also known as mackerel sky) they are a sign of changing weather.
With the arrival of the autumn equinox and the moon viewing festival Tsukimi, it will be time to make Ohagi and Dango once again. So much to enjoy this month. Celebrating the abundance of nature’s harvest with late summer early autumn vegetables and fruit. In Japan the rice fields will begin to turn gold and the spider lilies will bloom once more.