WHAT IS OSECHI

Osechi ryori is the Japanese term for traditional Japanese cuisine eaten on Japanese New Year’s. Osechi are customarily served in special boxes – often lacquered and red – that are known as jubako. These boxes look something like Japanese bento boxes, and are divided into sections to separate each food that is placed inside. Though you can buy osechi boxes in department stores, it is typically made and consumed within the comfort of one’s home.

Historically, osechi used to consist of only boiled vegetables, but over the years, it has evolved to include a variety of foods signifying various things. Though the types of food have increased in recent years, each dish is still something that can be prepared in advance and refrigerated so that the New Year day can be a rest day for the chef of the house.

The dishes and/or ingredients in osechi are said to have special meaning when consumed during the New Year.

Datemaki

Datemaki is a rolled up Japanese omelet that is sometimes mixed with fish paste or mashed shrimp. It is typically cold and sweeter than a traditional Western omelet. This food symbolizes a wish for days of success to come.

Kamaboko

Kamaboko are broiled fish cakes. Kamaboko can be eaten with a dash of soy-sauce, on its own, or is found in some dishes. On New Year’s, it is customary to include red and white kamaboko, as those colors are reminiscent of the rising sun. The use of these colors is meant to heighten the festive New Year’s feel of the osechi ryori. The kamaboko are also often arranged in an elaborate pattern within the box.

Kazunoko

This word means herring roe. A somewhat crunchy texture, kazunoko is sometimes also found mixed in with other ingredients in a marinated sauce. Since kazu means number and ko means child, this food symbolizes a wish for fertility and many healthy children in the New Year.

Konbu

This seaweed is widely associated with the Japanese word "yorokobu", which means "to be happy".

Kuro-mame

One of the most iconic osechi dishes,tThese black soybeans share the second part of their name – mame – with the Japanese word for health. Thus eating this food is a wish for good health in the New Year.

Ebi

A classic in any osechi, ebi are prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce, though sometimes only salt is used. The shape of the curled up ebi, in addition to the fact that they are all connected together on a skewer, signify a wish for a long life.

Nishiki tamago

This egg is separated before it is cooked, so that the two colors of the egg can have separate meanings. The yolk symbolizes gold, while the egg white symbolizes silver. Together, these colors call upon a wish for a year of wealth and good economic fortune.

Tazukuri

These dried sardines are cooked in soy sauce before being served. The meaning of the word tazukuri is “rice paddy maker.” The reason for this is that fish were commonly used to fertilize rice fields! The symbolism of this dish is thus a year of abundant harvest.

Nishime

Nishime is a dish consisting of simmered chicken and vegetables. Various ingredients in the dish are said to have symbolic meaning, like burdock root for success and fortune.

Snow Crab

Snow crabs are used in osechi because the crabs expel bubbles from their mouth, which is superstitiously taken to mean that your life will bubble with happiness. The way the crabs move their claws are said to look like they are inviting in good fortune.

Simmered Abalone

Abalones traditionally in Japanese osechi because they are known to live up to 20 years. The act of eating them is to wish yourself a long life.

Simmered Octopus

Octopus are a symbol of celebration in Japan. The colors of red and white are also said to be lucky.

YellowTail Teriyaki

In Japan, there are different names for the yellowtail depending on its age. Therefore the yellowtail is said to signify growth and promotions.

Ginger Flavored Scallops

The kanji for scallops comes from the way a scallop swims in the ocean. Like a ship with its sails set high, people eat scallops to wish for smooth sailing in life.