Toji (the winter solstice)(冬至)

The winter solstice is called Toji in Japanese. Toji was December 21st this year (2020).

Toji is the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Following Toji, the days will start becoming longer and the nights shorter.

Since the Toji is the day when yin reaches its peak and it will begin to transform into yang (yang comes again), it is also called “Ichiyo raifuku”(literally meaning the sun comes again). Thus, “Ichiyo raifuku” means “the winter is gone and the spring has come.”  “The new year will come soon.” or “things turn for the better after bad things continue”.

Amongst many cultures, the winter solstice was regarded as the rebirth of the sun, and as such was celebrated. Even now, many traditional customs remain.

Some traditional Japanese customs that are often still observed are:

1. Eating azuki-gayu (rice porridge cooked with red azuki beans) to drive away evils.  (Note: It is regarded that red color has an effect to drive away evils in Japan.)

2. Eating squash, peppers, Tofu, or a butterbur shoot to enhance life force.

Kabocha Squash

3. Taking yuzu-yu (yuzu-bath), which is taking a bath in which yuzu (small citrus fruits) float, while praying for good health. It is said that if you take yuzu-yu on Toji, you will not catch a cold for a whole year.

4. Visiting a shrine or temple to pray for good luck and health over the year, since Toji is often considered New Year’s Day.

Nowadays, #1 and #2 are often combined into a special treat of stewed squash in anko which is a sweet paste made from red azuki beans.

I visit Iseyama Kotai Jingu shrine in Yokohama city in Kanagawa prefecture on the Toji day every year and see the sunrise and pray for good luck and health.

Photos of the shrine in this blog are when I visited this year.

Note: #1-3 are cited from HP of Heiwado pharmacy (






1. 邪気を祓うために赤小豆粥を食べます。(赤は邪気を祓う効果があると言われています。)

2. 生命力強化を図るために、「とうじ」の「と」の字のつく、唐茄子(かぼちゃ)、唐辛子、豆腐、ふきのとうなどを食べます。

3. 冬至と湯治の語呂を合わせて、柚子湯に入り無病息災を祈ります。この日ゆず湯に入れば1年間風邪をひかないとされました。

4. 冬至を新しい年の始まりと捉え、神社やお寺でこれから1年の幸運や無病息災をお祈りします。




Aki. S.