The food eaten at New Year in Japan is meaningful as well as delicious, with each dish having its own specifi c signifi cance.
In Japan, as in many other countries, food is a big part of celebrations, and the New Year is no different. The most famous Japanese New Year’s food is osechi ryōri, which is eaten on 1st January. It consists of a series of small, individually prepared dishes presented in a box known as jūbako, which resembles a bento box. The tradition of osechi dates from the Heian era (794-1185) and generally includes foods that are preserved in some way, such as by pickling. This is because, traditionally, cooking was not permitted during the first three days of January, and so food prepared at the end of December needed to stay good for a few days. Each osechi dish has a special meaning relevant to the New Year. There are many of them, but the following are a few of our favourites.
• Daidai ( 橙) is Japanese bitter orange. When written as 代々, daidai means ‘from generation to generation’ Like kazunoko below, it represents a wish for many children in the New Year.
• Kazunoko ( 数の子) is herring roe. Kazu means ‘number’ and ko means ‘child’, so kazunoko is eaten to bring many children or grandchildren in the New Year.
• Konbu ( 昆布) is a kind of thick seaweed, associated with the word yorokobu, meaning ‘joy’.
• Kuromame ( 黒豆) are black soybeans. Mame also means ‘health’, so kuromame are eaten for health in the New Year.
• Tai ( 鯛) is red sea bream. Tai is associated with the Japanese word medetai, meaning an auspicious or happy event.
• Tazukuri ( 田作り) are dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The kanji in tazukuri mean ‘rice paddy maker’, as the fi sh were used in the past to fertilize rice fields. Tazukuri are eaten for an abundant harvest.
• Ebi ( 海老) are skewered prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce. They symbolize a wish for a long life, as they are bent like an old man.
By Life in Kansai