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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