Osechi

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Osechi photo
An example of Osechi-ryōri
Osechi legend
Legend: 1: Simmered shrimp, 2: Tazukuri, 3: Nishime Cooked vegetables, 4: Kamaboko, 5: Datemaki, 6: appetizer, 7: Konbumaki, 8:Kurikinton, 9: Tobiko, 10: Grilled sea bream, 11: Kazunoko, 12: Pickled vegetables, 13: Sweets, 14: appetizer, 15: Black beans, 16: Grilled lobster
Another example of Osechi in three-tiered box

Osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理) are traditional Japanese New Year foods. The tradition started in the Heian Period (794-1185). Osechi are easily recognizable by their special boxes called jūbako (重箱), which resemble bentō boxes. Like bentō boxes, jūbako are often kept stacked before and after use.

Examples of osechi dishes[edit]

The dishes that make up osechi each have a special meaning celebrating the New Year. Some examples are:

History[edit]

The term osechi originally referred to o-sechi, a season or significant period. New Year's Day was one of the five seasonal festivals (節句 sekku) in the Imperial Court in Kyoto. This custom of celebrating particular days was introduced from China into Japan.

Originally, during first three days of the New Year it was a taboo to use a hearth and cook meals, except when cooking zōni. Osechi was made by the close of the previous year, as women did not cook in the New Year.

In the earliest days, osechi consisted only of nimono, boiled vegetables with soy sauce and sugar or mirin. Over the generations, the variety of food included in osechi has increased. Today osechi may refer to anything prepared specially for the New Year, and some foreign dishes have been adopted as "Westernized osechi" (西洋お節 seiyō-osechi) or as "Chinese-style osechi" (中華風お節 chūkafū osechi). And while osechi was traditionally prepared at home, it is also sold ready-made in specialty stores, grocery stores, and even convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven.

Especially in households where osechi is still homemade, toshi-koshi soba (年越し蕎麦) is eaten on New Year's Eve. Its name literally means "year-crossing soba." Although there may be some symbolism attributed to it (i.e., long life, health and energy in the upcoming year), this tradition may be regarded as largely pragmatic: the traditional wife, busy cooking several days' worth of food for everyone, would likely prefer to make something simple for immediate consumption. It is considered bad luck by many Japanese to leave any toshi-koshi soba uneaten.

See also[edit]

References[edit]