A lot of attention is going to the Chinese New Year, when traditional foods are eaten for good luck. But that’s not the only Asian influence in January–Japan has it’s traditions as well. We talked with Mika Logan, a native of Japan, who made her own Osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理) this year.
She told us that because so many foods fall under the heading of “Osechi”–many of them complicated to make, that the practice of making the food at home is not as common as it used to be. She said, “Well, many Japanese are not cooking Osechi in their homes now. They buy from store!”
The tradition came out of a period when Japanese businesses were closed until well after January 1, meaning people needed to stock up on provisions. “It used to be that Japan didn’t have any open business ’till January 4th,” said Logan, “so they have to have something to eat during that period.”
The different items in Osechi each have a special meaning. Datemaki, for example, means a wish for “auspicious days,” which is in turn tied to fashion–in that people wish to have an opportunity to wear nice clothes and enjoy themselves. Tazukuri, made with sardines, is essentially a desire for an abundant harvest. The foods are served in special boxes similar to the lacquer Bento boxes used at Japanese restaurants, although these boxes are called Jubako.
“This year,” Logan said, “I made Datemaki, Kobumaki (Konbu), Kuro-mame, Tazukuri, Kiku-ka(Chrysanthemum) Namasu (small turnip), Ebi, Kinton, and Nimono (Carrot, Burdock, Shiitake, Konnyaku, Chicken).” Her creations are pictured here.
For more about the foods around Japanese new year, click here.