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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
One of the seasonal festival days; the seventh day of the New Year or the seventh of January. It is one of the "five seasonal festival holidays" established by the Edo bakufu. Because people celebrate by making and eating the nanakusagayu (seven grass soup) on this day, it is often called the nanakusa no sekku or just nanakusa. This custom originally came from China. An ancient custom existed in the Hopei and Hunan regions of China of making six divinations, one per day, on the first six days of the New Year. The divinations began on the first with a cock divination, followed by dog, sheep, boar, ox, and horse divinations on each subsequent day. On the seventh day, they performed divinations for man, and therefore called that day jinjitsu ("human day") or hitokachibi ("human victory day"). Then, they made a hot soup using seven types of grasses and also established a rule not to carry out punishments on that day. Likewise, even in Japan's ancient period there was a custom of picking young grasses on the first "day of the rat" of the first month of the New Year. There is even a record concerning the seven grass soup in the Engishiki, but the seven types of grass it lists were different from those used in the Chinese soup. The custom of eating the seven grass soup on jinjitsu spread in the Heian period. In the Edo period, on the morning of this day, it became customary for those under the Shōgun to eat the seven grass soup and then the assembled lords would enter the castle and address the Shōgun. Today, the events of jinjitsu are centered upon making and eating soup containing seven varieties of grasses in it. In other words, the nanakusagayu is the one aspect of jinjitsu day tradition that has been preserved. The seven grasses used in the soup are usually seri, nazuna, gogyō, hakobe, hotokenza, suzuna, and suzushiro, but other combinations are used in different regions. Also, there is an activity called nanakusabayashi in which people tap the beat with the seven grasses while singing an emotional folk song. The traditional lyrics of each region's nanakusabayashi song, usually contain stories about the pursuit of either "the bird from the land of Morokoshi (the ancient word for China)" or "the evening bird." In Mishima Taisha's (Shizuoka Prefecture) January seventh Rice Paddy Festival, a "distinctive rite" (tokushu shinji), people perform actions demonstrative of rice production like scattering seeds and stomping on grass while repeating a litany of questions and answers: this rite concludes with the singing a bird hunting song. As these examples suggest, this seasonal festival had at some time likely been associated with bird hunting activities.

— Yumiyama Tatsuya
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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