Hello, this is sio.
On the Ohigan of Japan, people have an image of eating “Ohagi” or “Botamochi”, don’t they?
I have not paid much attention to it, but do you know the difference between “Ohagi” and “Botamochi”?
There are various theories, but here are the differences between “Ohagi” and “Botamochi”.
What is Ohigan?
Ohigan is one of Japan’s miscellaneous theories. It is a Buddhist ceremony that takes place over a period of seven days (total 14 days in a year), three days before and after the middle days of spring (the day of the Spring Equinox) and autumn (the day of the Autumnal Equinox).
The sun rises in the true east and sets in the true west on the vernal equinox and autumnal equinox, the two days of the year when the length of day and night are the same, so people worship the setting sun in the west and think of the paradise far away.
The word “O-Higan” is said to be derived from the Buddhist word “Higan,” which was later combined with the Buddhist word “Higan,” from the word “Hi-gan” in the sun worship to pray to the sun for a good harvest, and originated in 806, when the first Higan-kai was held as a Buddhist event in Japan.
Incidentally, it is said that the event of “Ohigan” is unique to Japan and does not exist in Indian or Chinese Buddhism.
Both Vernal Equinox Day and Autumnal Equinox Day are national holidays in Japan, and the dates for the following year are decided by the Cabinet meeting held every February.
The period of the Ohigan in 2023
Last year, on February 1, 2022, Vernal Equinox Day and Autumnal Equinox Day were decided to be on March 21 (Tuesday) and September 23 (Saturday), respectively.
The three days before and after these two days will be the period of the equinoxes, so the period in 2023 will be as follows.
March 18 (Sat) Entry of the Ohigan
March 21 (Tue) Vernal Equinox Day
March 24 (Fri.) End of the Ohigan
Wednesday, September 20: First day of the Ohigan
Saturday, September 23 Autumnal Equinox Day
Tuesday, September 26: End of the Ohigan
Difference between “Ohagi” and “Botamochi
“Ohagi” or “Botamochi” are eaten as offerings on the equinoxes.
The general recipe is almost the same, glutinous rice mixed with Uruchi rice (or simply glutinous rice) is steamed or cooked, lightly pounded to the point that only a few grains of rice remain, and then rolled into a ball and filled with red bean paste.
In some areas, it is called “han-goroshi” because half of the rice is mashed.
There are several types of red bean paste, such as koshi-an (smooth red bean paste), tsubu-an (mashed red bean paste), kinako (soybean flour), aonori (green laver), sesame, and zunda (a type of sweetened soybean paste).
In some cases, the bean paste is filled in the same way as in making daifuku (sweet rice cake).
There are various theories on the difference between “Ohagi” and “Botamochi,” but here is a list of some of the most common ones.
- The Spring version is called “Botamochi” and the Autumn version is called “Ohagi”.
- “Botamochi” is made mainly from glutinous rice, while “Ohagi” is made mainly from Uruchi rice.
- “Botamochi” is made with red bean paste and “Ohagi” is made with soybean flour.
- “Botamochi” is made with koshi-an (smooth red bean paste) and “Ohagi” is made with tsubu-an (mashed red bean paste) or boiled red beans as they are.
- Conversely, “Botamochi” is made with tsubu-an (mashed red bean paste) and “Ohagi” is made with koshi-an (smooth red bean paste).
- “Botamochi” is made with sweet potatoes and “Ohagi” is made with sweet red bean paste.
- “Ohagi” is small enough to be eaten in two bites, and “Botamochi” is larger than that.
The origin of each word is said to be derived from the “flower” that blooms around the time of the Ohioan.
Since it is the season when peony flowers bloom (Botan), Botamochi is used to make offerings to gods, Buddha, and ancestors on the spring equinox, as if they were peony flowers.
Since autumn is the season when bush clovers bloom (Hagi), offerings to the gods and ancestors are made to resemble bush clovers on the autumn equinox.
What did you think?
I checked long-established Japanese confectionery stores, and it seems that some stores sell sweets under the same name, and some stores sell “Ohagi” in spring and “Botamochi” in autumn, and vice versa.
In addition, in many cases, foodstuff encyclopedias treat “Botamochi” and “Ohagi” as referring to the same thing, only with different names, since they are the same thing as foods, and the distinction between “Botamochi” and “Ohagi” seems to be gradually fading away.
There is an idiom that describes the Japanese climate, “Hot and cold last until the other side of the equinoxes,” so it seems that the cold of winter is finally easing up.
The blooming of cherry blossoms (Someiyoshino) has already been announced in Tokyo and other areas, so let’s buy “Botamochi” or “Ohagi” and go to see the cherry blossoms.