Japanese New Year Food




The New Year is the most important holiday in the Japanese calendar. It represents the opportunity to make a fresh start and carries hope for good things in the coming year. Starting a few days before January 1st, people give their houses a thorough cleaning and display ornaments thought to attract benevolent gods into their homes. In accordance with the idea of a new start, many people are accustomed to renewing their tableware for the new year. Each family member likes to choose his or her own rice bowl,chopsticks or tea cup according to their individual taste. Determining which kind sits better in the hand or has the right "feel",may involve a great deal of deliberation but it means that each piece is different and easily distinguished from the others. These items are highly personalised and sharing them is strictly taboo!

Food also plays a large part in the New Year festivities. "Osechi" is the name given to special dishes eaten only during the first few days of the year. These are served in tiered boxes and designed to last for at least three days. They can be eaten directly out of the box and require no extra cooking or preparation. This ensures no toiling in the kitchen, meaning a nice period of relaxation for everyone.

"Osechi" consists of a number of delicacies, many with a special significance pertaining to the New Year ideals of good fortune, good health and prosperity. The colors of red and white are often associated with festivities. Red represents a happy mood whereas white represents sacredness. Red and white "kamaboko" fish cake are a main staple of "Osechi". Rolled foods also have a special role in the "Osechi" box as they resemble scrolls which were an important part of festive events in olden times.The steamed egg roll "Datemaki" and "Kobumaki" rolled seaweed are examples of these."Kobumaki" is also associated with happiness as "kobu" evokes the word "yorokobu" which means to be pleased. The black beans ("kuromame")represent health. This is a pun on the name "mame" which gives the impression of a healthy person. The curved backs of the prawns are thought to resemble the posture of an elderly person and are therefore consumed in the hope that one may live a long and happy life. Fish roe is a popular item ."Kazunoko" or herring roe represents fertility as there are millions of eggs in a herring ovary. "Kurikinton" is a sweet paste made of sweet potatoes and chestnuts. It's gold color symbolizes prosperity. The small dried fish "Tazukuri" express the hope for a good harvest.This is because fish were traditionally used to fertilize rice fields.

Recently, Western-style food has also become popular, with treats such as roast beef, duck and smoked salmon gaining a regular place in the "Osechi" box.

In the old days, people would slave for hours preparing the various delights. Nowadays however, many have started ordering "Osechi" from their favorite restaurant or store. Pictured is a box from the restaurant of one of our regular customers. As you can see, it is jam-packed full of goodies and is a feast for the eyes as well as for the palette.

Artistic Nippon by Yoshikawa Toki Co.[Home]