'Osechi ryori' - The meaning behind Japanese New Year food

Japanese traditional New Year dishes

TOKYO —

For many Japanese, the New Year involves taking out the kotatsu (table and blanket over an electric heater), securing the “omochi” (pounded rice cakes) and getting ready to cook “osechi ryori” — Japan’s traditional food served during the New Year’s holidays. While we see it everywhere, how much do we actually know about “osechi?”

“Osechi ryori,” said to have begun in the Heian era (from 794), is a set of small, traditional dishes served in beautiful three- or four-layered lacquer bento boxes called “jubako,” placed at the center of the table on New Year’s Eve and remaining there through Jan 1. Shared with all family and friends, each item in the tray represents a particular wish for the next year. Here are 12 typical food items you’ll encounter and their symbolic meanings.

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Savvy Tokyo

  • -2

    kurisupisu

    And it's stone cold as as full of sugar!

    I had my New Year wish with a steaming hot bowl of noodles!

  • -2

    sensei258

    New Year involves taking out the kotatsu

    Why, it's frikken cold

  • -2

    cleo

    We don't 'do' osechi at our house. As kurisupisu says, it's cold and full of sugar. And doesn't even taste very nice. On New Year's Day we have our o-zoni (soup with veggies and omochi) for a late breakfast, and for the main meal of the day we have something we actually like. Last year it was temakizushi (with grilled pepper and avocado for the vegetarian option) and this year it's going to be cheese fondue with a variety of veggies and French bread.

  • 0

    Strangerland

    The kotatsu has been out for at least a month at my in-laws.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    No need for a kotatsu down here, today it's about 25C and sunny, just might have to turn on the A/C while the family gathers around the butsudan.

    We like others we know don't do osechi, buying them or preparing them is expensive and time consuming. We are having a BBq'ed tenderloin, grilled chicken, beer, and other party/family favorites.

    Doesnt matter the "what", what matters is spending time with the family. Now if we could just figure out a way to do away with having to spend 50,000 to 100,000 on otoshidama!

  • -1

    turbotsat

    Yubaru: Now if we could just figure out a way to do away with having to spend 50,000 to 100,000 on otoshidama!

    When the kids are too old you'll miss it ...

  • -1

    GW

    Yeah sure its not healthy but so what have a bit at the end of the year, you can pick away at it here & there, just have to watch the cats!!

    This year the Mrs bought an Italian style Osechi.........opened up this am & the Mrs catch eat octopus so I started on that & oooooh the garlic, couple pieces later & I was almost opening a cold one, this stuff is total Otsumame! Had to stop haha, will be at it though once it gets dark & have the wood stove sparked up!

    Enjoy folks!

  • 0

    Tessa

    I love looking at osechi but I don't like eating it very much.

  • -5

    MsDelicious

    Otoshidama is like Hanukah Gilt.

    Osechi is tasty and beautiful but way way over priced.

  • 1

    Raymond Chuang

    Making or buying osechi ryori used to be common but within the last 30 years, the rise of konbini and regular supermarkets that open just about all the way to December 31st has reduced its demand. The high price of a decent store-bought osechi box hasn't helped, things, either.

    I wouldn't be more surprised nowadays that families during New Year's Day period in Japan are more likely to eat from a nabe pot or an oden pot instead at home, especially since you can get the ingredients almost right up to the last day of the year.

  • -2

    tinawatanabe

    it's stone cold as as full of sugar!

    Authentic Osechi is full of kombu dashi, not sugar.

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