Rice Gruel (kayu)

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Rice gruel (kayu)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Humanity, Observance


Rice Gruel, rice porridge, congee ...

CLICK for more photos

Rice may also be made into rice porridge (also called congee or rice gruel) by adding more water than usual, so that the cooked rice is saturated with water to the point that it becomes very soft, expanded, and fluffy. Rice porridge is commonly eaten as a breakfast food, and is also a traditional food for the sick.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

zoosui 雑炊 rice porridge with other ingredients

Reisbrei mit weiteren Zutaten
kigo for all winter


late summer

gesai no on kayu 解斎の御粥 (げさいのおんかゆ)
gesai kayu 解斎粥(げさいかゆ)

This ritual dates back to the Heian period.

On the 12th day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar, the emperor is relieved from his vow not to eat fish or meat (kessai) and the inbi no gohan ceremonies come to an end.

The first thing he eats is this rice gruel.
The gruel is served in an earthen pot, with some wakame soup. He eats three mouthful and then sticks his chopsticks into the rest.
This rice gruel was not soft as it is now, but hard to be eaten with chopsticks.

. inbi no gohan 忌火の御飯 (いんびのごはん)
"rice on the memorial day"
more details are here 

kessai けっさい【潔斎】
purify oneself by abstaining from fish and meat


early autumn

O-bana no kayu 尾花の粥
..... obana gayu 尾花粥(おばながゆ), obanagayu小花粥(おばながゆ)
..... susuki gayu 薄粥(すすきがゆ)
Rice gruel with susuki grass ears


early winter

the 10th night, juuya 十夜 (じゅうや)
prayer night of the Jodo sect of Pure Land Buddhism

Often on November 9th.

honorable tenth night, o juuya 御十夜(おじゅうや)
tenth night ritual, juuya hooyoo 十夜法要(じゅうやほうよう)

gruel at the tenth night, juuya gayu

prayer gongs at the 10th night, juuya gane 十夜鉦(じゅうやがね)
temple with ceremonies at the 10th night, juuya dera
monk at the 10th night, juuya soo十夜僧(じゅうやそう)
old woman at the 10th night, juuya baba

persimmons for the 10th night, juuya gaki


kigo for mid-winter

"Gruel for Priest Chi-E", Chie gayu, Chie-gayu 智慧粥
"Great Master's Gruel", Daishi gayu 大師粥
gruel on the 18th day, juuhachi gayu 十八粥
fuguri gayu ふぐり粥(ふぐりがゆ

CLICK for more photos

In some areas, wheat noodles with red beans are also added to the gruel. Some people eat it on all the days with a 4 in December.

Other kigo related to this ceremony,
celebrated at Mt. Hiei-zan from November 23 to 24 in memory of the founder, Dengyo Daishi:

Prayer group for the Great Master, daishi koo
大師講 だいしこう

Memorial day for Tendai Daishi, Tendai Daishi Ki
Memorial day for Chisha Daishi, Chisha Daishi Ki
Tendai Prayer Ceremony, Tendai e、天台会(てんだいえ)
Tenday Prayer Ceremony at November,
shimotsuki e 霜月会(しもつきえ)
Great Ceremony at Mount Hieizan, Hieizan hokke e

CLICK for more photos of Mount Hiei-zan
Mountain Monastery at Hiei-Zan

. Saicho, Dengyo Daishi 伝教大師最澄
Mount Hiei (比叡山, Hiei-zan) and Temple Enryaku-ji (延暦寺 Enryaku-ji)

Daishi Ko is also a naming for memorial groups and ceremonies of other great Buddhist personalities (daishi), like Kukai Kobo Daishi or Nichiren.

Tendai - Chisha Daishi  - Chigi 天台智者大師
Zhi-yi (538 - 597): Third founder of Tendai Sect

- quote
Zhiyi (Chinese: 智顗 Wade–Giles: Chih-I; Japanese: Chigi)
(538–597 CE) is traditionally listed as the fourth patriarch, but is generally considered the founder of the Tiantai tradition of Buddhism in China. His standard title was Śramaṇa Zhiyi (Ch. 沙門智顗), linking him to the broad tradition of Indian asceticism. Zhiyi is famous for being the first in the history of Chinese Buddhism to elaborate a complete, critical and systematic classification of the Buddhist teachings. He is also regarded as the first major figure to make a significant break from the Indian tradition, to form an indigenous Chinese system.
. . . T'ien-t'ai taught the principle of Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought Moment (一念三千) (J. Ichinen Sanzen) in his 'Great Concentration and Insight', based on the Lotus Sutra.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !


observance kigo for mid-winter

roohatsu gayu 臘八粥(ろうはちがゆ)
gruel for the Rohatsu sesshin

unzoo gayu 温糟粥(うんぞうがゆ) warm gruel
gomi gayu 五味粥(ごみがゆ) "gruel with five tasts"

roohachi e 臘八会 (ろうはちえ), rohatsu, Rohatsu meeting
..... roohachi 臘八(ろうはち)Rohatsu, Rohachi
..... roohachi sesshin 臘八接心(ろうはちせっしん)Rohatsu sesshin
..... joodo e 成道会(じょうどうえ)、

December 8, the day of the Buddha's enlightenment
(ro hatsu - the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month)
Ritual at Zen temples in Japan.
For the first round, rice is flavored with miso and sake lees, later with kombu seaweed and persimmons on sticks (kushigaki), then soy beans and other ingredients are added too, altogether five different "tastes"

the endless wheel stops as
the morning star appears

Angelee Deodhar
December 2013

. Observances, festivals, rituals - SAIJIKI .


kigo for mid-winter

winter solstice gruel, tooji gayu 冬至粥 (とうじがゆ)
..... akaragashiwa 赤柏(あからがしわ)
..... azuki no kayu 赤豆の粥(あずきのかゆ)
solstice pumpkin, tooji kabochi 冬至南瓜(とうじかぼちゃ)
solstice konyaku (devils tongue starch food)
solstice rice cakes, tooji mochi 冬至餅(とうじもち)

Kigo for winter solstice, tooji 冬至


kigo for late winter

offering gruel to the poor, kayu segyoo

kayu yaroo 粥やろう or かゆやろう
in old Edo Dialect: kai yaroo かいやろう

During the Edo period, rich people would cook hot rice gruel and distribute it to the poor people in their neighbourhood or special districts where the poor lived. They put the hot gruel in a wooden pail, walked along the road and called "Here comes the gruel" (kayu yaroo).
This was expecially popular in years of bad harvest when many went hungry.


New Year

Adzuki beans gruel, azuki gayu, 小豆粥 (あずきがゆ)
gruel on the 15th day, juugonichi gayu
red adzuki beans gruel, azuki gayu 赤小豆粥(あずきがゆ)
..... mochi no kayu 望の粥(もちのかゆ)

CLICK for more photos January 15 of the lunar calendar is also called "mochi no hi" 望の日, the first full moon of the New Year. This is the day when these mochi are eaten in the rice gruel. This custom is especially alive in Eastern Japan to this day.
This custom dates back to the year 897, when a criminal was beheaded in ancient China and later pardoned by the Yellow Emperor and rice gruel cooked to pacify his soul.


mochi put in rice gruel, kayu bashira 粥柱 (かゆばしら)
eaten on January 15.

In some areas on January 14 a piece of the New Year decorations at the house corners (kado kazari) was sliced off and used as a stick. On January 15 this stick was used when praying at the pillars of the home for support during the coming year.

In some areas, a prayer paper was put in the split stick and kept in the rice gruel, as a talisman for an easy delivery and good health during the year.

In other areas, this stick was used to stir the rice gruel. But since Edo period, most haiku interpret it as a mochi rice cake in the gruel.


"rice gruel stick" kayuzue 粥杖 (かゆづえ)
kayu no ki 粥の木(かゆのき)
..... kayugi 粥木(かゆき)
fukuzue 福杖(ふくづえ)
..... iwai boo、祝棒(いわいぼう)

CLICK for more photos This stick was used to stirr the rice gruel for January 15 celebrations.
It could be used to hit a woman on her behind with the wish for fertility, when this stick was symbolizing the male organ.
The custom is still practised in some rural mountain areas.

. Bondeko ぼんでこ fertility stick

Kobayashi Issa :

kayuzue ni eraruru eda ga oshio yama

choosing a branch
for her "preganancy stick"...
Mount Oshio

Tr. David Lanoue

Oshio Yama 小塩山, Close to Oharano Shrine 大原野神社 in the West of Kyoto.
The grave of Junna Tenno 淳和天皇is on top of the mountain, in the middle is the old temple Konzooji 金蔵寺, founded in 718. The forests around the temple and on this mountain are very old and kept as sacred grounds.

. . . . .

More about hitting the bottom :

. Usaka no tsue 鵜坂の杖(うさかのつえ)Sakaki stick of Usaka
At the Usaka Jinja shrine festival.


"fishing for rice gruel" kayutsuri 粥釣 (かゆつり)
This refers to a custom which is still practiced in remote areas of Shikoku. Children with wrapped-up faces go from house to house in the neighbourhood to ask for grains of rice to be used to boil the gruel for January 15 ceremonies.
In Tottori and Okayama it is called kotokoto ことこと, in Kyushu and Yamaguchi tobitobi とびとび.


divination with rice gruel, kayu ura 粥占 (かゆうら)
ceremony for ... kayu ura shinji 粥占神事(かゆうらしんじ)

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"Rice-gruel divination" is a type of "divination for the coming year" (toshiura) that was formerly held around the 15th of the first lunar month of the year, koshōgatsu (literally, "little New Year's Day"), which follows ōshōgatsu on the first day of the lunar year. Today, it is generally performed on January 15.

The objective of kayu'ura is to divine the weather, harvest, or other aspects of the year to come. The ceremony takes various forms. A practice found nationwide involves stirring cooked rice gruel (kayu) with a branch of willow or other wood with a slit at one end (this stick is variously called a kayubō, kayubashi 粥箸, and so on), then divining the future by the number of rice grains attached to the stick's slit. In another method, twelve slim "cylinders" (tsutsu) of bamboo, reed, or other material are placed with rice or azuki beans in a pot and removed when the rice or beans are done cooking; after splitting open each cylinder with a knife, that year's harvest is determined by the number of rice grains or beans within the cylinders, with each of these cylinders representing a month of the year. To predict the harvest of individual agricultural crops, the number of bamboo cylinders placed in the rice gruel corresponds to different crop types rather than months of the year. A former practice is said to have based divination on the mold that spontaneously formed on rice gruel that had been left for several days.

This use of rice gruel for annual divination is thought to have derived from a belief in its supernatural power to exorcise evil spirits. Until the Meiji period, rice-gruel divination was found throughout Japan and is believed to have been a communal ritual conducted by rural communities, the head family of clans, and other groups, but it is very rarely encountered in modern times. Vestiges of this practice can still be seen at shrines in the "rice-gruel divination ceremony" (Kayu'ura shinji) or "cylinder divination ceremony" (Tsutsu'ura shinji) and, even today, some shrines announce the results of such divination ceremonies by posting them at their altar or distributing them in print.
© Suzuki Kentarō , Kokugakuin University.


Other kigo related to this rice gruel divination:

kayu dameshi 粥試し(かゆだめし)
kayu ura matsuri 粥占祭(かゆうらまつり)
..... kudakayu matsuri 管粥祭(くだかゆまつり)
"gruel in pipes" kudakayu 管粥(くだかゆ)
..... tsutsugayu 、筒粥(つつがゆ)
pipe .. tsutsu 筒(つつ)
o-kayu matsuri 御粥祭(おかゆまつり)
kayu shinji 粥神事(かゆしんじ)

Ceremony at Hiraoka Shrine :
Hiraoka no okayu ura shinji

枚岡の御粥占 神事 (ひらおかのおかゆうらしんじ)
On January 11 at Hiraoka Shrine in Osaka. The result of the divination was published on Janaury 15.
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Hiraoka Shrine, click for more photos

Kayu rice gruel divination at Shrine Iimori Jinja
February 14
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This ceremony is as old as the Yayoi and Jomon period.
Sacred ricewine is drunk from abalone shells.
It is a special honor for children to be allowed to add sticks to the fire while boiling the rice.
First, the rice is boiled as a soft gruel, and presented and kept in the shrine for a while. Then, it is opened and inspected. The condition of mold on the surface will show weather the harvest will be rich or poor.
Boiling rice into gruel: February 14 around 20:00 ~ 1:00,
Presenting the gruel: February 15 at 6:00.
Opening and inspecting the gruel: March 1 at 6:00.

At Miho Jinja 御穂神社 ー 三保神社 Shizuoka
. Miho matsuri 三保祭 Miho festival .
with rice gruel divination


Seven Herbs of Spring (haru no nanakusa)
nanakusa gayu 七草粥(ななくさがゆ)gruel with the seven vegetables
nanoka gayu 七日粥(なのかがゆ) gruel on day seven

observance kigo for the New Year

wakana matsuri 若菜祭 (わかなまつり) "festival of new leaves"
nanakusa matsuri 七草祭(ななくさまつり)"festival of the seven vegetables"
..... 七種祭(ななくさまつり)
wakana shinji 若菜神事(わかなしんじ)ritual of the seven vegetables

On the seventh day of the first lunar month, a special rice gruel was eaten in most homes of Japan. It was also served ritually in many temples and shrines.
The most well known rituals of this kind were held at
Kitano Tanmangu Shrine and Kibune Shrine in Kyoto. at Ikutama Jinja in Osaka, Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine in Kumamoto and some others.

. Kitano Tenmangu 北野天満宮 .

. Kifune Shrine 貴船神社 .

. Ikutama Shrine 生国魂神社 .

Fujisaki Hachimangu 藤崎八幡宮

Worldwide use


Porridge, made from oatmeal, is a common breakfast dish.
There are certain types of porridge prepared only seasonally.
Please let me know of any seasonal preparations of your area to add them as kigo.

Higginson mentiones
as a kigo for all winter in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
Also called porridge or mush.

Porridge, or porage,
is a simple dish made by boiling oats (normally crushed oats, occasionally oatmeal) or another cereal in water, milk, or both. It is eaten in a flat bowl or a dish. If made from cornmeal to which boiling water is added this can be seen as a variant of porridge, though these are more often described by regional/national variant names such as polenta and grits and are prepared and served according to special regional traditions. Oat and semolina porridge are the most popular varieties in many countries, other cereals used for porridge include rice, wheat, barley, and cornmeal. Legumes such as peasemeal can also be used to make porridge.

oat porridge - can be made with steel-cut oats (traditional in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man) or with rolled oats (traditional in England and the United States); known simply as porridge in Ireland, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, as oatmeal or oatmeal mush in the United States, and known as both in Canada; also a traditional Scandinavian and Icelandic breakfast, where it is known as havregrød in Denmark, havregrynsgröt in Sweden, Havregrøt in Norway, hafragrautur in Iceland, and Puuro in Finland. In Scotland Porridge Oats is traditionally prepared using a spurtle. Oat porridge has been found in the stomachs of 5,000 year old Neolithic bog bodies in central Europe and Scandinavia.

More in the Wikipedia



kanji, congee
kigo for winter

Rice congee is a type of rice porridge that is eaten in many Asian countries. The word congee is possibly derived from the Dravidian word kanji.
Udupi rice ganji is a variant made by Kannada-speaking, Tulu-speaking or Konkani people in and around Udupi and Mangalore (Karnataka, South India). Here parboiled rice (Kocheel akki in Kannada, oorpel aari in Tulu or ukda tandul in Konkani) is steamed with a small amount of water. Fresh coconut is grated and its milk is skimmed; this milk is then added to the ganji. The ganji (called pej in Konkani) is served hot with fish curry, coconut chutney, or Indian pickles.
In Tamil and Kerala a plain rice porridge, or the thick supernatant water on overcooked rice is called 'kanji' with no stress on either syllable (or both short syllables in the Tamil system based on duration of sounds).
MORE . Congee in the Wikipedia

Things found on the way


kyoo no hi ya suru-suru kayu mo ogamaruru

this day--
even stirring gruel
is a prayer!

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

The expression, suru-suru, denotes a smooth, gliding motion; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 896. Here, it seems to refer to the stirring of gruel.
The Chinese Tendai Buddhist Third Patriarch Chigi (Chih-I 538-597) passed away on the 24th day of Eleventh Month, 597. His memorial service is celebrated on this day.
A "wisdom gruel" (chie-gayu 智慧粥) in memory of priest Chi-E is served at Tendai temples.

MORE hokku by Issa about this gruel

namu daishi shiranu mo kayu ni aritsukinu

azuki-gayu daishi no yuki mo furinikeri

kyoo no hi ya suru-suru kayu mo ogamaruru

. Tendai Daishi (Saint Tendai 天台大師) .

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


borantia asa mada kiyori kayu segyoo

the volunteer
comes again in the morning ...
offering of rice gruel

Tr. Gabi Greve

Takenouchi 竹内柳影 : food haiku


kamidonya kayu segyoo shite Tategawa beri

the paper wholesaler
gives alms of rice gruel
at the river Tategawa

Tr. Gabi Greve

member of Shunto Kukai 春 燈 俳 句 会
Tategawa is a canal in Tokyo.

Related words

***** Beans (mame) adzuki beans

***** Rice cakes (mochi) and pounding the rice for them

SAIJIKI of Japanese Ceremonies and Festivals


WASHOKU ... Rice dishes

WASHOKU ... Japanese Food SAIJIKI

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Anonymous said...

he lets me pass
through the gap in the fence...
night of winter prayers

heiai o tooshite kureru juuya kana


by Issa, 1819

This haiku is similar to another one Issa wrote later that same month (Eleventh Month, 1819):

na-batake o toushite kureru juuya kana
he lets me cross his field... night of winter prayers

"Winter prayers" refer to the Ten Nights Festival, a Tenth Month event during which people gathered at Pure Land temples to recite the nembutsu, a prayer of thanksgiving for, and praise of, Amida Buddha's saving grace.
Eons ago, Amida promised that all who rely on his saving power will be reborn in the Pure Land (the Western Paradise). A farmer, caught up in the spirit of the season, allows someone (presumably, Issa) to take a shortcut, through a gap in his fence.

David Lanoue

Ella Wagemakers said...

a two-hour drive
on my way home
winter prayers

winter prayers
as I gaze at the sky
one star brightens

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

konnyaku ni kyoo wa urikatsu wakana kana

Today sold-out
By young herbs.

Matsuo Basho
Tr. Nelson / Saito

Written on the seventh day of the first lunar month
元禄6年1月7日, Basho age 50

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

"Fudo Rice Gruel" 不動粥 Fudogayu
at temple Enman-In Monseki 円満院門跡 / 圓満院
滋賀県大津市園城寺町33, - 33 Onjojicho, Ōtsu, Shiga

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Chinese priest Chisha Daishi 智者大師 Chigi ちぎ / 智ギ (538 - 597), the third founder of the Tendai sect.
and his disciple Saint Enchi 円智上人

Tsugaru San Fudoo 津軽三不動 Three Fudo Statues in Tsugaru, Aomori
carved by Enchi.

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

shibu-iru no kesa kita zoo no juuya kana

the old priest,
wears a light brown kesa
for the 10th night prayers . . .
Tr. Gabi Greve

. Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 .

more about the kesa

Gabi Greve said...

Stephen Robertson wrote:
In honour of the ‘little New Year’ today, I wanted to put out a question about rice divination. I've been doing some research and writing on Japanese gruel divination (kayu ura) in the contemporary context from an anthropological perspective. Reviewing the history of the ritual, however, has been instructive, and I was curious about the state of knowledge on the use of rice in divination practices in ancient (and later) Japanese history. Specifically, I wanted to ask whether modern textual research has in any way superseded the work of the national philologists of the nineteenth century.
The purported genealogy seems to be from rice divination (yone-ura 米占) -> boiled rice divination (ii-ura飯占) -> gruel divination (kayu-ura 粥占 / tsutsugayu 筒粥 etc.)
Interestingly, the former two customs are explicitly described as popular:

Firstly, for example, the use boiled rice in divination is attested in the Nihon ryōiki (824), in an attempt to augur the future life of a dying monk: 「禪師善珠 臨命終時 依世俗法 問飯占時 神靈託卜者言...」. This has been translated as ‘according to the custom among the laity and clergy’ (Watson 2013: 199) and by Nakamura with ‘as was the practice of the people at that time’ (Nakamura 1973: 284).

Secondly, the Kogo Shūi (807) alludes to kata kannagi and hiji kannagi, two obscure classes of diviner, the latter of whom uses rice in a divination context: 「肱巫(今俗、竈輪、及び米占也)」. Katō and Hoshino translate this as “by means of rice grains or a domestic cooking furnace ring now popular among us” (Inbe 1924) (http://goo.gl/Wwjvpf).

Moreover, the conventional folkloristic explanation of gruel divination is also that it was a popular custom that has fallen out of practice except in shrine contexts. (Though this explanation has been contested recently).

continue reading:

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Iwate
Iwate 岩手県
和賀郡 Waga district 和賀小山田地方 Waga Oyamada area

If someone got dysenteria or bloody dysenteria, they grind white rice in a mortar and prepare kayu 粥 rice gruel from it.
If the person was healed, he was not allowed to eat anything raw for a while. He would get pickled vegetables which had been pickled three or four years ago.

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Yamagata 山形県
. Kōbō Daishi Kūkai 弘法大師空海 Kobo Daishi Kukai Legends
If people make dango 団子 dumplings on the 23day of the 10th lunar month, they never use sugar.
In former times, Kukai had made kayu 粥 rice gruel on this day and burned himself.

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Toyama about
. nanakusa gayu 七草粥 ritual gruel with seven Spring vegetables

If people prepare ritual rice gruel with seven herbs, the akushin 悪神 devil will not come into the home.
It will also prevent people from falling ill and bring them good luck in the coming year.