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- Main lore areas
Eastern region, Central region
- Main ingredients used
Round rice cake, azuki beans
- History/origin/related events
Zoni is a local delicacy with a rich regional flavor, and many different types of zoni are eaten throughout the country. Some are filled with plenty of broth, others with red beans and a little broth, some are sweetened with sugar, and a few are salty. In the past, azuki soup was boiled with a little salt, but nowadays it is generally boiled with sugar from the beginning. However, it is not the case that azuki zoni is eaten throughout the prefecture; in the mountainous areas, it is often flavored with soy sauce or miso.
The exact origin of "azuki zoni" is not known, but since ancient times, the red color of azuki beans was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits, and so it has been used as an ingredient for special occasions. Zoni is made by getting up early in the morning on New Year's Day, drawing the first young water of the year, and boiling it in a single pot over a purified fire. Zoni is considered to be a sacred food that gives vitality to human beings, and it is said to have taken root as the mainstay of New Year's celebrations as a food to unite the family and relatives by sharing it with others.
- Opportunities and times of eating habits
It is eaten with osechi on the morning of New Year's Day. The saltiness of osechi and the sweetness of azuki zoni are exquisite. Azuki has long been one of the ingredients that appear at festive occasions as sekihan (red rice) and mochi no azuki (rice cakes), and at other milestones in life. Zoni is made with azuki because of its nutritional value, and is eaten to celebrate the New Year.
- How to eat
Zoni is similar to what is called "zenzai" or "shiruko" in other regions. After azuki beans are drained, they are boiled until soft and seasoned with sugar. Round rice cakes boiled in a separate pot are added to the azuki soup. The seasoning varies slightly from household to household and region to region, but in most regions, soft-boiled round rice cakes are used for the mochi. In Misasa Town in the central region, rice cakes made from "tochinomimi" (a type of Japanese nut) harvested in the mountains are used.
- Efforts for Preservation and Succession
Volunteers have gathered to promote "Tochimochi Zoni" in order to enliven the community, revitalize the area, and pass on the culture.