Celebrating New Year Japanese-style is not only extremely gratifying spiritually, but also exceptionally satisfying nutritionally. For the end of the year Japan comes back from modern high-tech to customs and traditions that are being kept alive all these centuries since Heian era (starting 794 AD). Historically is was a taboo to cook on New Year´s day, so a vast variety of special foods has been elaborated, called Osechi Ryori (お節料理), that are typically stewed with lots of sugar or vinegared in order to preserve them. They´re traditionally arranged in neat and very practical boxes, jūbako, that can be stacked one on another for larger families or parties.
Each dish chosen for osechi ryori is a symbolic wish for things like long life, wealth, fertility, and happiness...
Like with everything in Japan, great attention is paid to the look and arrangement of the dishes in the boxes. Every ingredient is neatly cut, prepared, decorated and placed on precise location. There´s a great variety of dishes that you can find in osechi ryori, such as renkon no nitsuke レンコンの煮付け (lotus root cut like chrysanthemums and simmered in sweet soy sauce), kamaboko 蒲鉾 (the quintessential pink and white Japanese fishcakes traditionally sliced and layered in alternating rows of pink and white) or datemaki 伊達巻 (sweet golden rounds of egg and fishcake with a ribbed outer surface).
For anyone who would like to learn more about the New Year´s foods in Japan or maybe even to try to prepare these mouth-watering creations, we´ve found the article on osechi ryori recipes of Marc Matsumoto to be most inspiring.
* * *