Japanese Winter Solstice Traditions; A Day for Kabocha and Yuzuyu
There are certain annual traditions associated with tōji (winter solstice) in Japanese culture. The tōji customs we’re going to talk about today are found all across Japan and sure to be known by the vast majority of Japanese people. The last custom we’ll introduce, yuzuyu (citrus bath) in particular is an extremely relaxing bathing method so we hope you’ll try it for yourself!
What is Tōji
Falling around (or, in 2015, directly on) December 22, tōji is the Japanese name for the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. From tōji onward, people say that the cold in Japan gets progressively harsher and that the winter solstice marks the beginning of true winter. The two most famous customs associated with this “advent of winter” are eating kabocha and taking a yuzu bath.
What’s Good to Eat on Tōji
Famous across the country, kabocha is a winter squash also known as the Japanese pumpkin or Japanese squash. Anciently, winter was a season lacking in vegetables, and it’s said what made kabocha special is how it could be eaten during this time. Rich in nutrients during the winter, it was also chosen as a food that helped ward off sickness, like colds. There are other vegetables popular during this time, all of which have a nasal “n” in them.
Ninjin (carrot), renkon (lotus root), konnyaku (konjac), ginnan (gingko nut), kinkan (kumquat), udon (thick wheat noodles), etc.
Easily the most famous of the tōji customs, yuzuyu (citrus bath) is a tradition with its roots in prayers for safety and good health, but even from a practical point of view the fragrance of the yuzu fruit (a tangy, yellow citrus) is pleasant, and yuzuyu warms the body and helps soothe skin chapped by winter’s cold. With skin rejuvenation properties as well, yuzuyu is loved by Japanese people, men and women alike.
It’s actually quite simple, as well: simply throw one or two market-bought yuzu fruit into your bathtub. Scrubbing the yuzu fruit directly against your skin will make it gorgeously smooth, so be sure to try this all-natural bath enhancer! Also, if you happen to head to a hot spring in Japan around this time, it’s fairly common for yuzu fruit to be included in baths at traditional Japanese inns.
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