New Year – Japanese Style –

December 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

In Japan, traditionally New Years is more important than Christmas.

We do celebrate Christmas (although it’s nothing alike compared to Western version of Christmas) but New Years is more traditional and important for Japanese people (as far as I know).

First of all, probably one of the most notable features in Japanese New Years is “Osechi ryori (お節料理)”. The incredible thing about this cuisine is that this tradition has started in the Heian Period (794-1185), and we do still cook this cuisine!

Look at this razzle-dazzle cuisine below. It looks pretty.


Not to mention, Osechi ryori has lots of meanings. Basically Osechi ryori is like a big bento consisting of lots of different kinds of dishes in it, and those dishes have meanings for the coming year.

Examples of Osechi dishes are:

Daidai (橙) – Daidai phonetically means “from generation to generation” when written in different kanji as 代々.

Kazunoko (数の子) – Herring roe. Kazu means “number” and “ko” means “child(ren)”. It symbolises a wish to be gifted with numerouos children in the new year like Daidai.

Datemaki (伊達巻) – Sweet rolled omlette mixed with fish paste. They symbolise a wish for many auspicious days.

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) – Broiled fish cake. Slices of red and while kamaboko are alternated in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are remiscent of Japanese rising sun indicating a festive meaning.

Konbu (昆布) – A kind of seaweed. It is associated with the word yorokobu which means “joy”.

Kuro-mame (黒豆) – Black soybeans. “Mame” means “frequent” or “more often”.

Kohaku-namasu (紅白なます) – Is made of daikon and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar with yuzu (citrus fruit). “Kohaku” means red and white, which are lucky colours.

Tai (鯛) – Red sea-bream. Tai is associated with the Japanese word medetai, symbolizing an auspicious event.

Tazukuri (田作り) – dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. Tazukuri means “rice paddy worker” meaning an abundant harvest.

Zoni (雑煮) – A soup of moch rice cakes in clear broth (in eastern parts of Japan) or miso broth (in western parts of Japan).

Ebi (海老) – Skewered prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce. Generally prawns have a festive meaning.

Not many people these days do not cook Osechi ryori which is a sad fact.

Moreover, there are many interesting New Year tradition in Japan.

There are some toys and games that are played by kids around New Years.

Fukuwarai (福笑い) – Means “lucky laugh”. The game is quite similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey, whereby the players pin different parts of the face (such as the eyes,eyebrows, nose and mouth) onto a blank face and laugh at the humorous results.


Kakizome (書き初め) – Literally means “first writing”. It is is a Japanese term for the first calligraphy written at the beginning of a year, traditionally on January 2.

So, do you like New Year “Japanese Style”?


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