Photo:sakura_chihaya+ on Flickr

Passion and Pride of the Farmers for Setsubun Celebration – Natural Blessings from Biwa Lake

Setsubun Festival is thought of as another New Year’s Eve in Japan, and is celebrated annually on the day before the start of Spring. The festival started in the 1300s, and has a special ritual, which is seen as a way to cleanse yourself of evil spirits and bad luck. This deep-cleansing ritual there is an activity called mame-maki, meaning ‘bean scattering’.

Bean scattering, or bean throwing, is exactly as it sounds. Traditionally people throw roasted soya beans on the ground in their homes to ward off evil spirits or devils that could bring bad luck. When the beans are thrown, the words “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi” are shouted, which means “out with the devils, in with good fortune”. Sometimes the head of the house, usually the father, wears a devil mask and the family pelt him with the roasted beans. Once the beans have been thrown, everyone gets to eat a bean for each year of their life as a treat – not the ones on the floor though!

During the Setsubun celebration, Eho-maki sushi rolls are traditionally eaten to bring good fortune. But instead of being cut into single-bite sushi pieces as usual, they are left whole and eaten as rolls. Cutting during the Lunar New Year is considered unlucky. People near Biwa Lake usually make their Eho-maki sushi by using the natural ingredients from Biwa Lake. They believe that the water is the mother of delicacies. Ever since wet rice cultivation was introduced to the country, Japanese people have developed productive land through rice farming. Through the Edo Era (1630 – 1868) to the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912), Shiga prefecture was one of the leading rice production sites in Japan along with the Hokuriku region (Niigata, Toyama, Fukui, and Ishikawa) and boasted top-class production volume and quality.

Photo by m-louis .® on Flickr.

Omi rice, grown with the natural environment surrounding the lake and farmers’ passion.

Being engaged in rice cultivation over a long period of time, farmers in the Omi region have maintained their sincerity and passion for rice farming. Their strong  will for producing delicious rice has long been passed down and maintained their high quality rice. Three types of rice are grown in Shiga Prefecture: Food rice (which is usually eaten), sake rice, and glutinous rice (using for making rice cakes).

Photo by m-louis .® on Flickr.

Omi Beef, the renowned brand beef is the fruit of its producers care and attention.

Omi beef is defined as Japanese beef which 'For the longest time have been raised in Shiga Prefecture, a place blessed with a rich natural environment and water'. In 2007, it was registered as a Regional Collective Trademark of Japan.

Photo by Ryosuke Hosoi on Flickr.

Omi Tea, excellent tea supported by long-held techniques by experts

Omi tea was developed over 1200 years ago. The tea has been traditionally known for its unparalleled aroma, and widely recognized among tea ceremony lovers. Since the tea trees are cultivated mainly in the hills in southern Shiga, noted for their great daily temperature fluctuations, the tea leaves store an abundance of nutrition in themselves and produce high-quality tea with dense aroma and deep flavor.

Photo by Apple2000 on Wikipedia.

Lake fish, the blue and rich water of Lake Biwa bring about the fresh flavor of the fish.

Over Lake Biwa’s long history, diverse environments have been formed in Lake Biwa from the reedy margins to the offing, with a depth of over 100 meters. Cleverly utilizing these environments, many endemic species have developed in the lake. Lake Biwa’s unique species, such as biwawamasu, isaza, and honmoroko, gave birth to a unique food culture combined with rice and vegetables.

Shimoda eggplants. Photo by Motokoka on Wikimedia Commons.

Omi vegetables, a wide variety of distinctive vegetables protected and cultivated in each district.

In Shiga, there are many traditional vegetables known to those in the know. Most of them are consumed within the prefecture since the harvest is too small to be distributed in large quantities. The vegetables are characterized by the local taste of each district, deeply connected to the local food culture, and clearly reflect the history and culture to the district. There are 14 designed varieties such as Hino Turnip, Shimoda eggplant and akamarukabu (round red turnip).

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