Setsubun - Japanese winter festival
New Year or 'Oshogatsu’ is so prominent in Japanese culture that it overshadows other winter feasts, but elements of these other festivals are definitely found in the winter menus of Yamazato Restaurant. One of those festivals is Setsubun, which is nowadays celebrated in February. The festival involves purification rituals to drive demons out of the house by throwing roasted soya beans from every external door and window of the house. Good spirits are invited in by throwing beans into the house as well, with the accompanying spell: “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” – ‘demons out, luck come in’. Children eat the beans that fall on the floor and try to consume one for each year of their lives.
Change with the seasons
Everywhere in the world, cuisines change with the seasons, since they are dependent on the products available. Festive food often shows a seasonal aspect, like game for Christmas and eggs for Easter in Europe. However, the slight adjustments in basic ingredients with the passing of the year are characteristic for the refined kaiseki ryōri cuisine. At this authentic Japanese cuisine that the Yamazato Restaurant offers, utmost care is given to the smallest details. Each dish, especially first course, contains subtle symbols of seasons, holidays and festivals. Slightly more sweetness is for instance appropriate in winter and more salt in summer, since we need the energy when it is cold and the salt when the sun dehydrates us. The menus also show many references to seasons which may not always be entirely clear to European guests. Typical references to Setsubun are sardines, which are said to be disliked by impious forces.
Not only the food is served in absolute harmony with the season; the seasonal aspect is all-pervasive. Flower arrangements in dining rooms change according to the season: pine for New Year, plum blossom in February. In winter evergreen or branches with fruits are also used. The hangings at the entrance of the restaurant (called noren) change in colour and design with the seasons, as do the waitresses’ kimono. Even the tableware shows seasonal decorations. All signs of the deeply cherished connection with nature that is of utmost importance in Japanese culture.