Japanese New Year

Food

What Is It?

"Osechi ryori" is what most people in Japan eat at the beginning of the new year. Regardless of how many times you splurge at Nobu, osechi isn't something you'll ever find on a Japanese menu. Its time and place are the first few days in January, in the Japanese home.

Osechi ryori was originally a way for housewives (and their families) to survive the first several days of the New Year, when stores throughout Japan were closed. The foods that make up osechi can be prepared in advance and then sit out in a cool area for a few days without spoiling. Most often everything is placed in compartmentalized lacquer boxes that are stacked in layers.

What Is The Significance Of Each Food?

There’s a huge variety of dishes, each one, a symbolic wish for things like long life, wealth, fertility, and happiness.

Gobo Kobumaki (昆布巻) – Burdock is a very long root that symbolizes the Japanese ideal of a life, long and stable. This preparation also represents joy, as “kobu” sounds like “yorokobu” which means joyful.

Renkon no Nitsuke (レンコンの煮付け) – The many holes in it allow us to look through to the year ahead.

Kikuka Kabu (菊花蕪) – The chrysanthemum is the symbol of the emperor and is used to mark joyous occasions.

Nimono (煮物) – The shape of the carrots in this dish is symbolic in that every plum flower bears one fruit, making this another wish for fertility.

Kuri Kinton (栗金飩) – it represents a wish for wealth and financial success in the new year.

Ebi no Shioyaki (エビの塩焼き) – The shape of the shrimp is similar to that of an older person and represents longevity.

Kazunoko (数の子) – symbolize a wish for fertility.

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) –symbolize the rising sun.

Datemaki (伊達巻) – a wish for sunny days ahead.

Kuromame (黒豆) – symbolizes good health

Ikura (イクラ) – the eggs represent fertility.

Tazukuri (田作り) – symbolizes a bountiful harvest.

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Where Can You Find It And Where Can You Buy It?

Today most osechi is purchased - either at department stores or at local supermarkets. Prices start at under Y10,000 (for portions that will feed a few people for at least three days), but it's also possible to spend literally a hundred times that amount (the equivalent of US $10,000). The high-end osechi food is made by famous chefs (or more likely, famous restaurants), and - typical of Japanese custom - is limited in production. High-priced department stores like Takashimaya start taking orders for osechi in late October, and often the most popular varieties sell out within a few days.

What Else Happens On New Year In Japan?

many people give money to children during New Year's holidays in Japan. It's called otoshidama. most people put it in little envelopes before going to family gatherings.

visiting a shrine or a temple during New Year's holidays is very traditional . People pray for safety, health, good fortune, and so on. The first visit to a temple or shrine in a year is called hatsumoude. Many well-known temples and shrines are extremely crowded. Some temples and shrines expect a couple million visitors during New Year's holidays each year.