Life Through Seasons in Japan

Celebrate the New Year in Japan With Nanakusa Gayu

Last Updated on 2024-02-15 by Teni

Happy New Year — 2024 is the Year of the Dragon! The Japanese New Year is a low-key, family-oriented holiday rich with tradition. Food plays an important role, with elaborate boxes of osechi ryori (お節料理) taking center stage. But, you can also celebrate the new year in Japan with nanakusa gayu (七草粥), a rice porridge made from seven different herbs that are associated with the start of spring (初春 | shoshun).

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Teni Wada | Baby Kaiju Blogさん(@wadateni)がシェアした投稿

Tradition states that eating nanakusa gayu will bring you good health for the remainder of the year. It’s typically eaten on or around January 7, a week before the Japanese New Year ends.

(January 7, by the way is kochoukai, one of the 5 sekku, or annual ceremonies of the Japanese imperial court. Find out more here: Hatsu Sekku: Momo no Sekku and Tango no Sekku.)

Last year, I made nanakusa gayu, and while it’s not exactly a tasty meal, it was a worthwhile cultural experience. Plus, my little Kaiju was right at the baby weaning stage, and she could try my creation!

READ: Hatsu Shogatsu: How Babies Celebrate the New Year in Japan

Here’s how I got all the ingredients to cook nanakusa gayu on the stovetop.

As I mentioned earlier, nanakusa gayu is a rice porridge (粥 | kayu) made with seven (七 | nana) different herbs (草 | kusa).
They are:

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Teni Wada | Baby Kaiju Blogさん(@wadateni)がシェアした投稿

Seri/Japanese Parsley
Nazuna/Shepherd’s Purse
Gogyou/Jersey Cudweed
Suzushiro/Japanese radish
It may be difficult to get all the ingredients (except turnips) outside of Japan. But if you are in Japan or live near an Asian grocer, you’re in luck!

Simply head to the produce section in the days leading up to January 7, and you’ll see plenty of prepackaged nanakusa gayu ingredients (七草粥セット | nanakusa gayu セット).

How To Make Nanakusa Gayu

Ingredients (Serves 4-5 People)

1 Nanakusa gayu set
7 cups water
2 cups rice

Peel, rinse and dice turnips. Briefly immerse the herbs along with turnips in hot water. Mince herbs and set aside.
Put water and rice in a pot, bring to a boil and let simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes.

Next, add minced ingredients. The porridge is done when herbs are tender. To finish, add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Will you try nanakusa gayu this year?

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