Sekihan is glutinous rice steamed with adzuki beans.
It is usually eaten after sprinkling with sesame salt, because the glutinous rice matches perfectly with the flavor of the adzuki beans and the salty taste.
The color of this rice is the natural color of the adzuki beans, and people began eating this dish during celebrations based on the belief that the color red has the power to help people avoid disasters.
One hundred days following birth of a child, food including sekihan, fish such as sea bream grilled whole, and soup is prepared for the okuizome (first meal) ceremony to make the wish that their child will never go hungry for the rest of his or her life.
While children are still not able to eat whole foods at this age, the custom is for parents to use chopsticks to bring the food to the mouth and imitate eating.
In addition to okuizome, sekihan is deeply tied to events that mark the stages in the lives of Japanese people, including giving birth, the first Boys’ and Girls’ festival (held on March 3 for girls and May 5 for boys to celebrate healthy growth), coming of age, and honoring kanreki (reaching age 60).
Of course, it is not a requirement to cook sekihan for these celebrations.
For example, while there are some families that may make sekihan for a lunch box for sports competition, there are also families that almost never make sekihan.
While there was the custom of cooking sekihan to celebrate a girl’s first menstruation in the past, people don’t do this much anymore due to girls not wanting to be old-fashioned and feeling embarrassed about having their whole family know about these types of things.
Sekihan takes a bit more time and effort than standard white rice because the adzuki beans have to be boiled.
For busy modern mothers, product are sold such as canned adzuki beans that can be put in the rice cooker together with glutinous rice (to the left in the photo) and sets that include glutinous rice along with the necessary ingredients (to the right in the photo).
Sekihan onigiri (rice balls) are also frequently available at convenience stores.
When you visit Japan, make sure to try sekihan available at the onigiri section of convenience stores!