Friday, January 8, 2010

JJNN: Happy new year and seven flowers

Welcome again to Jei's Japan News Network. First things first, I got to say that I am sorry for being so lazy with my blog. I would like to say that I have been busy (and I have been busy) but really not too busy to at least write two posts a week. Secondly, I would like to say Merry Christmas (read that as happy holidays if you don't celebrate that holiday) and happy new years. Now that it is 2010 it really feels like we are in the future (I still want a flying car and rocket packs...)

So, this is a new year and a fresh start. Though I am still working at the same job, I am also looking for a new job as a translator. I guess if I work hard enough of JJNN someone will notice it and actually start paying me money for writing this (that would be nice). Either way I am still trying to make my way in this world in the new year.

I guess that I should actually get to the news. I wanted to start with something more cultural than technological so I chose this story about a tradition in Kagoshima prefecture in southern Japan.

Almost every place in Japan has a food that they are famous for. There are even people that travel around the country just to eat that food. For example, the place where I live, Niigata, is known for its rice. In my humble opinion it is the best tasting rice in the world (well it is better than Uncle Ben's any way). A city in the next prefecture over is known for its ramen. Within that city's limits there are over 50 ramen shops. There are even places that are known for their slightly strange delicacies. That is what that article is about.

Every year on the seventh of January a place called Kajiki-cho in Kagoshima feeds their seven year old kids something that is called Shichi-gusa gayu (roughly translated as 7 flower rice gruel). Apparently the kids that eat this rice gruel are suppose to become very healthy. Well, actually, there is more to the custom than just eating the gruel. The kids, who have to be dressed up in their best clothes, have to go around to seven houses in their neighborhood and collect the seven flowers that will be used to make the rice gruel. After they are done collecting the flowers they bring them to the people who will make the rice gruel. After that they just have to wait for it to get cooked. You can see a kid getting her gruel below.

Rice gruel in Japan is something like chicken soup in America. It is something that you eat when you want to get over a cold. It is also something that you eat when you want to get your strength back or when you want to warm up on a cold day. You can eat the gruel just by itself or you can add other foods to it (for example; potato, fish, or even powdered tea) to enhance the flavor. I like rice gruel, but it is not something that I really eat a lot. I can see a kid that eats a lot of gruel growing up to be very strong and healthy. Though, there is the fact that the gruel by itself is missing a lot of necessary vitamins and minerals really needed to stay healthy.

That brings me to the "seven flowers." Japan actually has two different sets of "seven flowers." There is one set for spring and one set for fall. The set that is used in the gruel is the spring set of flowers. These flowers are Japanese parsley, shepherd's purse, Jersey Cudweed, chickweed, Japanese Nipplewort, turnip and daikon radish. A lot of those flowers have very unappetizing names. I known I dont want to eat cudweed or nipplewort. You may have noticed that the last two are not even flowers. For the Japanese, flowers and flowering plants that produce a vegetable used to be in the same category. Those seven flowers have the vitamins and minerals that are needed to balance out what the gruel is lacking. Though I can't really imagine what it taste like, the gruel probably is very healthy.

Below is a close-up of the gruel.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 健康(けんこう). It is pronounced kenkou and means health. For the first time in years I have not had a cold in months. I think I am finally starting to get healthy.

See you next time at JJNN

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