Monthly Feature Story - June 2024 - Summer Solstice

2024-06-17 Monthly Feature Story - June 2024 - Summer Solstice

Cultural Tips - Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is the longest day and the shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

The summer solstice in 2024 falls on June 21.

It's customary to eat winter melon on this day throughout Japan. This is because winter melon contains a lot of vitamin C and potassium, and is believed to be effective in preventing summer fatigue. It's also good for rehydration because of its high water content. 

There are several customs depending on the region.

For example, in the Kanto region (greater Tokyo area) people eat grilled rice cakes made from freshly harvested wheat and glutinous rice. This is believed to encourage people to approach their lives with the same tenacity and sticking power as sticky rice cakes!

In a region of the Fukui Prefecture it is customary to eat a whole grilled mackerel on the 11th day after the summer solstice. Grilled mackerel is a good source of protein. It is believed that this custom began during the Edo period (1603-1868) when the feudal lord of the region would encourage farmers to eat mackerel to nourish their weary bodies after rice planting.

In the Kansai region (area around Kyoto and Osaka), people eat octopus. The reason for eating octopus is to pray for a good harvest so that the roots of the rice plant will grow firmly in all directions like the eight legs of an octopus.

In Japan, the summer heat begins in earnest around the time of the summer solstice. Healthy, nutritious food helps us cope with the heat and humidity!