In Japan, the Winter Solstice, also known as the shortest day of the year, is celebrated as a symbol of harmony and balance.
Rooted in Chinese philosophy, it is believed to be a balance point between the 'yin' of darkness and cold, and the 'yang' of warmth and light.
The kanji for 冬至 are the character for winter 冬, and the character for peak/arrival 至。
Solstice Traditions | 冬至の伝統
In Japan, the winter solstice is celebrated by:
- Enjoying a hot bath with yuzu
- Visiting the onsen
- Attending the Winter Solstice festival (冬至祭）at a shrine
- Eating special solstice foods such as kabocha, daikon, konnyaku, ninjin (carrots)
Itokoni | いとこ煮
Itokoni is a popular and symbolic 冬至 dish, made up of simmered kabocha and azuki (red beans).
Why Kabocha and Azuki？ | カボチャ と 小豆？
Kabocha is a special food in Japan as it provided needed nutrients when fresh produce was historically scarce in the winter.
The red color of azuki beans symbolizes the sun, offering protection from evil.
This year we made Itonoki with Zuccuri – the fluffy, sweet-potato-like texture went amazingly well with the sticky red beans. Give it a try next time! Happy 冬至！