January 7, 2020

Nanakusa Gayu 七草粥

Nanakusa Gayu – Japanese Porridge

The beginning of the new year brings with it a strong desire to start a new chapter in our lives. Achieving challenging goals at school or at work; strengthening ties with family, friends, and why not, also expanding our network of friends.

To all this, we add the desire to feel good and in harmony with our bodies. We promise to follow a more balanced diet, to go running in the morning and to prefer a good walk to zapping television (all personal experience).

Like all long trails, in order to reach the finish line it is important to set at least one strong starting point that motivates us to do better every day.

If for our Italian holidays, the binge ends with the Befana on January 6th, in Japan, the last moment of celebration of the new year takes place on January 7th, and is called Jinjitsu 人日, the day of man.

However, do not be fooled by the term “celebration”, as Jinjitsu does not include a big eating or drinking together.

Instead, it is considered a time when you purify your body and get ready to start the New Year on the right foot!

Nanakusa Gayu


NANAKUSA NO SEKKU (七草の節句):The festival of seven herbs

Jinjitsu is better known as Nanakusa No Sekku -七草の節句 which literally means: the festival of the seven herbs.

The name comes from the custom of eating every year on this day, a porridge (considered an aid against diseases) made with 7 different medicinal herbs (symbolically the first wild herbs of the year) capable of detoxifying and giving health and strength to our body.

This tradition comes from China, and is linked to the day when human was created.  According to mythology, the world was generated by the goddess Nuwa during the week of the first lunar month.

(Days that correspond to the Chinese New Year celebrations and vary every year between the last days of January and the beginning of February).

In the first 6 days the goddess created the animals and finally, on the seventh day, humans: this event is called Jinjitsu ( = humans’ day).

By adopting the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji period, Japan made this event official on January 7.

Since more than 1,000, at least one meal of the day is dedicated to the celebration of humans through this dish.


The power of herbs


Nanakusa Gayu

The seven medicinal herbs related to this tradition are:

せり – Aquatic Fennel
なずな – Shepherd’s bag
ごぎょう- Gnafalio
はこべら – Stellaria Media
ほとけのざ – Lamium amplexicaule (“False Nettle”)
すずな – Turnip Leaves
すずしろ – Daikon Root

When I decided to make this porridge at home and Yo gave me the list of ingredients, my enthusiasm dropped slightly. Where could I have bought them? More importantly, how could I recognize them?

Since Nanakusa is a famous and popular tradition, is very easy to find all the necessary ingredients. Only these days, supermarkets and small grocery stores display these herbs in front of the entrance, ready to use. You can find them fresh, packed in pretty gift boxes, frozen or even insta.


If you want to cook in a pot:

Let’s cook

Few ingredients and simple steps.

Preparing Nanakusa Porridge will only require you a little bit of your patience.

Cleaning Step: Take the rice, put it in a bowl and wash it under running water scratching the grains against each other with your hands. Proceed until the water becomes clear.

Preparation for Cooking: Cover it again with water and let it soak for at least 25-30 minutes. It will absorb the water and increase slightly in size.

Cooking: Pour your rice into a pot. Add 200 ml of water, a pinch of salt and cover with the lid. Bring it to boil on a medium-high flame. As soon as you see your lid move, lower the heat to the minimum and stir gently with the help of a spoon, so that the rice does not start to stick to the bottom.

Cover again with the lid and let the rice cook for 30 minutes.

(Please do not open the lid at this stage, as the cooking vapours will get lost)

After time has passed, turn off the fire, add your Nanakusa Herbs finely chopped and another pinch of salt according to your taste!


Nanakusa Gayu


Okawari Kudasai!!