An important start to the new year should include not only a good mental rest, but for those of us who have been festive feasting the past few days, a break for our stomachs, too. On the seventh day of the new year, there’s a custom in Japan of enjoying a bowl of rice porridge seasoned with seven spring herbs. Dating back to the Heian Period (794-1185), and believed to have originated in China, the dish, called nanakusa gayu, is eaten to bring about good health and longevity.

This Sunday, Maruta-no-Mori Park in Minamiashigahara, Kanagawa Prefecture, is hosting an early Festival of Seven Herbs or Jinjitsu-no-sekku, at which nanakusa gayu will be served for free. Visitors can try the rice porridge prepared with seri (Japanese parsley), nazuna (shepherd’s purse), gogyō (Jersey cudweed), hakobera (common chickweed), hotokenoza (nipplewort), suzuna (turnip) and suzushiro (daikon radish). The ingredients are known for medicinal values, such as pain relief, and their nutritional value.

The event takes place on Jan. 5 — two days before the actual Festival of Seven Herbs — from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at a traditional Japanese house where visitors will be seated by an irori (Japanese hearth). For those who don’t know how to prepare nanakusa gayu but want to try it on Jan. 7, staff from the Maruta-no-Mori Park, who will be preparing the dish for this event, will also be offering advice.

Jinjitsu-no-sekku takes place on Jan. 5 at the Maruta no Mori Park, Minamiashigahara, Kanagawa Prefecture. You can access the venue via Shin-Matsuda Station on the Odakyu Odawara Line or Daiyuzan Station on the Izuhakone Daiyuzan Line. The event is free but an entry fee to the park is required (adults at ¥400, kids at ¥100 or ¥300). Number of bowls of nanakusa gayu will also be limited. For more details call 0465-74-4510 or visit k-mask.jp/maruta/index.html.

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