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Shrine offers up rare porridge

by Naoko Kuramochi

If you are in the Kyoto or Kansai area and missed the chance to have nanakusagayu (seven-herb porridge) on the seventh day of the new year, Jonangu Shrine should be your main destination on Japan’s National Foundation holiday.

Traditionally, Japanese people eat the rice porridge with seven specific spring herbs on Jan. 7 in order to live healthy throughout the new year.

Since 1984, Jonangu Shrine has served nanakusagayu on Feb. 11, a date close to New Year’s on the lunar calendar. On that day, a Shinto priest will dedicate the seven herbs to the gods at 9 a.m. and the shrine will cut them and add in porridge cooked with spring water from the Hushimi district of Kyoto. Visitors can try this seasonal porridge from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.

The seven ingredients include suzuna (turnip), nazuna (shepherd’s purse), suzushiro (Japanese radish), hakobera (chickweed), seri (Japanese parsley), gogyo (cudweed) and hotokenoza (henbit).

The tradition was even mentioned in the Japanese classic “The Tale of Genji,” which was written in Heian Period (794-1185).

Jonangu Shrine will serve nanakusagayu from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 11. Helpings cost ¥450. Jonangu Shrine is a 15-minute walk from Takeda Station on the Karasuma Line. For more information, call (075) 623-0849 or visit www.jonangu.com/newyear.htm