On a brisk and chilly day in Kyoto, we visited Jonangu (城南宮) early in February. It is a historical shrine established about 1200 years ago in southern part of Kyoto at the time of relocation of the national capital from Nara. They display the ingredients of our traditional meal called “Nanakusa-gayu” which has been inherited since Genji-monogatari(The tale of Genji) in 11th century, one of world’s most famous classics.
Having wished for a good health under Covid-19, we had Nanakusa-gayu, which is rice porridge cooked with seven spring herbs in season. This meal makes the most of their seven tastes of young spring herbs brimmed with good nutrition and here at Jonangu they cooked for the day of 7th of January in lunar calendar which corresponds about to 11th of February in solar calendar, though most of the families in Kyoto usually have it on 7th of January in solar calendar. 7 of January in lunar calendar is the time close to the first day of spring, therefore it is much more appropriate time to harvest a plenty of fresh young herbs.
At Jonangu, we can also enjoy a large variety of camelia (i.e. “Tsubaki” in Japanese) in the Rakusuien garden which surrounds the main sanctuary. About 400 flowers of camellia by 150 varieties are there in the garden from September through February for almost half year-round, blooming and feasting our eyes on their various type of colors and traditional Japanese beauties since they are originated in our country dating back over 5000 years as their scientific name camellia Japonica suggests it. The garden is also famous for its gorgeous plum blossoms from February through March.
“Tsubaki-mochi” is another amusement for us at Jonangu shown on the above left picture. Mochi is traditional and popular sweet stuff made of rice in our country. This mochi is made of rice powder mixed up with sugar and starch syrup and often use with sweet bean paste inside. Another type of mochi known as rice cake is made of pounded steamed rice which itself is usually not sweet and becomes so stiff some hours after pounding. We usually roast it when eating. The above picture on the right shows traditional fancy bento box prepared by classic “Ryotei” (an exclusive Japanese restaurant). This was bought at Shinkansen concourse at Kyoto station.