Traditional Festive Foods
Traditional festive foods (gyōji-shoku) refer to special dishes eaten during events and celebrations. Many of these dishes incorporate seasonal ingredients and also encompass the wishes for happiness and wellbeing of the family. Initially prepared as offerings to the gods as thanks for their protection, these dishes were passed down for generations within households in Tsuruoka, evolving into the celebratory dishes that we see today.
Special festive dishes play an important role in Japanese culture, and this applies even more so in Tsuruoka. As agriculture has been a staple of life for the Shōnai people since the olden days, feasts were prepared by the people as offerings to the gods to thank them for bestowing abundant food sources. These feasts served a dual purpose: aside from giving thanks for past blessings, people wove their hopes for abundant future harvests into their dishes. This tradition can still be observed today in Tsuruoka’s traditional festive meals.
Holidays like New Year’s Day and Setsubun (lit. “changing of seasons”) are celebrated similarly here as in the rest of Japan. However, in addition to having a number of festivals found only in Tsuruoka, certain national festivals, such as the Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri) and the Bon Festival (Obon) are practised differently.
In Tsuruoka, Hinamatsuri is celebrated either on 3 March or 3 April depending on the household! Residents decide when they want to celebrate for themselves.
Did you know?
Although glutinous rice is usually an off-white colour, sasamaki has a unique texture and distinct yellow colour as it is boiled with charcoal ashes.
Tango no Sekku
A New Era
Up till the end of the Edo period (1868), Obon was held on the 15th of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. However, as Japan moved into the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese started using the Gregorian calendar, shifting Obon to July. As July was one of the busiest months for farmers during that period, they were unable to prepare the offerings for their ancestors properly. Thus, Obon was delayed for one month to 15 August; this date is also closer to the original date on the lunar calendar, giving them more time to prepare for the event.
Did you know?
Chrysanthemum flowers are edible! They are commonly eaten pickled with vinegar and seasoned with soy sauce. These pickles are a common side dish found in food offerings to Tanokami.
Daikoku-sama no Otoshiya
Daikoku-sama & Forked Daikon
It is said that Daikokuten really enjoys eating mochi, to the point where he once experienced a tummy ache after eating too much. While on his way home, he saw his bride washing daikon radishes by the river. He tried asking her for one to help with his stomachache, but she could not give him an entire radish for fear of being discovered by her mother-in-law. Instead, she picked a forked radish, split off one of the ends and gave it to him. Daikokuten’s stomachache was cured after eating it, making him very happy. Because of this, we offer forked radishes to Daikokuten every year.