It's been 15 years since I spent the New Year's holiday in Japan. How I missed it!! In our country, New Year's is much more special than Christmas. Everything (stores, restaurants, all sorts of businesses) are closed on January 1st to 3rd for everyone to spend time at home with their family, eat New Year's special foods called Osechi, and to visit shrines and temples to wish for good luck for the year. Although this was traditionally the case, lately greedy businesses like shopping malls have been staying open from the first or second. Passing the year(what we call "toshikoshi") is also important; families get together usually by December 31st and eat "toshikoshi-soba" (year passing noodle: the tradition comes from a few stories related to the meaning of soba, like longevity) to the sound of 108 temple bells ringing all over Japan.
Osechi is a traditional Japanese food that you will find only at New Year's. Each family and each region have different seasonings and ingredients. Each dish has meanings related to wishing good luck in health, wealth, and happiness for the year. (e.g. beans = "mame" in Japanese. This also means "busy worker," or success). The colorful ones in white wooden boxes on the left are made by the professional sushi chef Yanamasa. We were lucky to have received this gift, which would cost $400(!). On the right in the red box is what is handmade by my 90-year-old grandma. Both are really amazing, but I have to say... grandma's osechi tastes way better, with years and years of experience and tons of love in it...
This was our breakfast on January 1st, 2013. Osechi and mochi in soup. A very traditional way to start out the new year, except... oops, that omelet. My dad is an omelet fanatic. He has to make it every morning, no matter how much other food we have on the table...
Not really New Years food, but another typical winter food, Nabe(hot pot). This one has Kiritanpo, a famous rice cake from the Akita area. We had it the same evening, along with the left over osechi.
This is SO typical of modern Japanese convenience. It's a gift pack, to conveniently make a Kiritanpo hot pot without even thinking... Everything is washed, cut, packed separately and you just need to dump each of them in according to the illustrated directions "how to make yummy Kiritanpo." It even comes with a water bottle, the only things you need are a pot and stove. It's a funny culture to me...
Gourmet journey of Japan , to be continued.