Matsunaga-Sensei on “Minadzuki”Posted: June 29, 2013
From her Kamoshimo Kyoto school of cooking, Keiko Matsunaga talks about the foodway traditions associated with the Summer Purification Ritual, Nagoshi no Harae…
About Nagoshi no Harae [Summer Purification Ritual]
Referred to as Oharae or Nagoshi-no-Harae or Minadzuki, this Shinto ritual, which is performed to cleanse all of the harm caused by our actions during the first half of the year, is held at various shrines on the 30th of June each year. A giant purification ring made up of miscanthus reeds, called a chinowa, is erected in the shrine grounds, as well as paper dolls onto which we transfer our impurities and which are then offered in a special purification ritual.
At my home, we like to write our names and our misdeeds onto the paper doll and blow onto it; then we rub the doll all over our own bodies in order to gain protection from disaster. At Shimogamo Shrine, on August 6th, known as Rishu on the old calendar, these purification dolls are released into the stream in a Shinto ritual known as Yatori Shinji that washes away all of our regrets and misdemeanours. The Shinto priests throw the paper dolls into the sacred pond at the same time as young men rush into the pond to claim a sacred arrow that is a good luck talisman.
In the past, when the imperial court was still in Kyoto, on the first day of the sixth lunar month, ice that had been stored in an icehouse from the previous winter was offered at the imperial court. Of course, commoners could never taste such a treat, so they made and ate a confection which imitated the shape of the ice, sprinkled with adzuki beans. This sweet was called minadzuki. These days, on the 30th of June, on the day of the Nagoshi no Harae, people still eat this triangle-shaped sweet made from rice flour (uiro) that is sprinkled with sweetened boiled adzuki beans as a symbol of protection against illnesses common in the forthcoming height of summer heat.
I remember when I was a child that the sweets maker near my home was always really busy at this time of the year. Minadzuki is made using a rice flour dough that is first steamed, then sweetened adzuki beans are sprinkled over the top and it is steamed again. It is then cooled and sliced into triangles. In times gone by, a narrow long-bladed knife was used to cut the minadzuki but these days a special wired frame is used to cut the triangular shapes accurately. Chefs nowadays also make a savoury version of the sweet minadzuki by using gomadofu [sesame tofu].