Osechi Ryouri-Japanese New Year Dish

January 10, 2012 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

When I was child, my mum would take me to my grandma´s house the end of the year to spend the New Year with the relatives. We used to go around the 28th or 29th of December and always my grandma and aunty were in the kitchen cooking crazily.

osechiTo prepare this.

This is the typical Shougatsu dish in Japan, Osechi Ryouri (おせち料理).

The origin of Osechi like most of things, is China. In Nara period (奈良時代 710-784), the Japanese Imperial Court started celebrating five most important seasonal festivals, gosekku (五節供), the ceremony was called Sechie (節会) and the food served for this ceremony was called Setiku (節供).

Common people started celebrating Gosekku (ご節句) in Edo period (江戸時代). Until Tenmei era (天明 1781-1789), people would serve this feast to the Toshi-gami (年神) and also to the neighbours. But some point during Tenmei, people made this dish just as a decoration and the food was placed into these beautiful boxes called Juubako (重箱). Then, in Meiji period, in 1873, this custom was abolished in the Imperial Court although people continued this tradition until now.

There are six basic things you have to eat ;


 (お屠蘇 / Sake)



Zouni (雑煮 / Mochi in soup)

Zouni is made in different way in different regions.




Iwai zakana san-shu (祝い肴三種 / 3 lucky foods)




Nishime (煮しめ / cooked veggies)


Suno mono (酢の物 / veggies soaked in vinegar)

This is made with Japanese white radish and carrots.


Yakimono (焼き物/ grilled fish)

Can be a bream or a yellowtail too. In some families eat meat.



These six dishes are the basic. Each dish has its meaning. For example, let´s have a look at Iwai zakana, these are the common ones.



Kuro-mame (黒豆 / sweet black beans): The colour black is a symbol of hard worker (farmers work hard and get sun tan), the round shape presents the sun and the word Mame apart from beans also means a person works hard. People eat Kuro-mame hoping to be able to stay healthy and work hard whole year. 




Tazukuri (田作り/ baby anchovies) : Anchovy was used as a highest grade compost for rice field, and people eat this for a rich harvest.




Kazunoko (数の子 / eggs of herrings) : As there are a lot of eggs, people eat for having lots of offspring.




Kobu-maki (昆布巻き/ kelp) : As Kobu sounds like Yorokobu (喜ぶ / be delighted), Japanese people often eat konbu as a good luck food.




Datemaki (伊達巻き / sweet egg roll) : Date  means fashionable in old Japanese and as the shape of this egg roll came from Nagasaki (長崎) in Edo period looked like the pattern of kimono, which was back then the most fashionable, people named this egg, Date-maki.




Kuri-kinton (栗きんとん/ sweet chestnuts) : Because of its golden colour, people eat this as a symbol of fortune.


What I mentioned is just an example, there are so many difference between the regions and the families and it´s hard to say, this is all. So I´ve just showed you some common Osechi-ryouri most of us eat during Shougatsu (正月). As the family is getting smaller these days, like my family, people buy only what they like and less likely to see Osechi in five layer of beautiful boxes.

When I was little, nothing was open in the first three days of the year. Whole family stayed at home, watching New Year special TV programs, eating Osechi-ryouri and tons of mikan orange. When the kids got bored, my mum would take us to a boring centre. It was almost our New Year tradition and usually my uncle went to play pachinko meanwhile.

Now, many supermarkets are open from the 1st of January. I feel sorry for the people who had to work. Why not just do nothing at least on Gantan (元旦/ 1st of Jan)? I see that every year, we are losing the atmosphere of that purity of the New Year. It´s a shame.   

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