HAN-GE-SHOU(半夏生) is one period of Japanese original calendar called “ZASSETSU(雑節)”. It starts 11th day of GESHI(夏至) “The 24 seasons(二十四節気)” and lasts for 5 days.
This is an important period for rice farmers in Japan. The first day of this period is the target date of finishing planting rice. There is a saying that if you plant rice after this day, the yield of the year gets half. HAN-GE-SHOU(半夏生) for the farmers is also resting period after finishing rice planting as well. This probably causes the variety of traditions on this day and period to remain all over Japan.
FOOD EATEN on HAN-GE-SHOU
Depending on where you are in Japan, what to eat on this day differs. The most well-known custom is around the Osaka area (Kansai area) to eat octopus. Some other areas eat mackerel or certain types of soup.
In Kagawa prefecture, where we are, we have a custom to eat UDON, the thick white wheat noodles, on this day. Although UDON is the most popular soul food of Kagawa that we eat quite often and regularly, still, this day makes me feel “must have UDON!”.
Whatever we have traditionally on this day, we eat it not because these foods are in season, it is more of wishing the rice to grow well or appreciation for the hard work of planting rice. Today this tradition has been spreaded to non-farmers as well.
Around this time, Japanese rainy season (梅雨 /tsu-yu/) coming to the end. Especially for Kagawa, the area famous for sevier low rainfall, the real Summer-like weather begins. Sunny and really hot and humid Summer. Try to avoid outdoor activities in the early afternoon, if you are not used to hot humid weather.
If you like taking travel photos and the heat and humidity won’t bother you, visiting Kagawa after the rainy season is one of the best seasons. Especially you want to capture strong contrasting photos of nature and the Setouchi Islands.