An entire nation soothes its stomach on the 7th

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With Christmas dinner and New Year’s parties lined up one after the other, the end-of-year holidays sometimes seem like one long marathon of eating and drinking. The egg nog and artichoke dip might have looked like a good idea at the time, but stomachs can feel a little abused after all the festivities. It’s not a big surprise, then, that Japan actually dedicates a day in the new year for soothing overstuffed tummies with rice porridge.

Feeling the aftereffects of that New Year’s party?
There’s a great washoku antidote. 

After the week-long indulgence, your body might be feeling a little listless and dull. But at least you can rest assured that you’re not the only one; the heaviness you feel after the holidays is apparently an international phenomenon. In Japan, we have a day (January 7, to be exact) dedicated to resetting your body with an easily digested rice porridge. It includes a traditional selection of seven mountain herbs, which are known as the Seven Herbs of Spring.

Brown Rice Porridge with the Seven Herbs of Spring

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This is nanakusa-gayu (rice porridge with seven edible wild spring herbs) ☆ It's delicious even for those who don't like brown rice. ♪

Resetting both mind and body with seven-herb porridge

Each of the seven herbs holds a special meaning in wishing for a peaceful, healthy year ahead, and combined, they provide a lean and soothing meal. It’s just the right dish to counterbalance the extravagances of the holidays.

The seven herbs added to the rice porridge were traditionally a selection of indigenous mountain plants. For this reason, the specific types of herbs used often varied from region to region. Nowadays, however, with most supermarkets carrying prepackaged sets of these herbs, you might not notice that much regional variety, but the practice of regrounding mind and body on the 7th of January remains. The plants are a great way of catching up on your vegetable intake, and the soft consistency of the porridge makes for a meal that goes easy on your tired tastebuds and digestive system. When it comes to overeating during the holidays, it seems like old habits die hard, but people back then might have been onto something with the idea of starting afresh with a healthy bowl of porridge.  (TEXT:Akiko Takyu)