Osechi-ryori is special food often cooked at home to celebrate New Year, one of the most important of Japanese festivals. New Year  is a sort of Christmas and Thanksgiving wrapped into one, a time when family gather to celebrate. While osechi-ryori differs by region and from family to family, the food has a lot in common. Each dish and ingredient in osechi has meaning, such as good health, fertility, good harvest, happiness, long life, and so on.

Some of this food is arranged in multi-layer lacquered boxes called jubako, similar to bento.

The jubako or bento meal traditionally may include:

  • A standard portion of rice (a bowl) served with sushi
  • A portion of fish, usually fried as tempura or salmon, and / or meat such as pork or chicken. There may also  seafood or even a rolled tortilla.
  • A small portion of soaked or marinated vegetables.
  • Some fruits in small portions.

Other foods may also be served in a variety of bowls. The different dishes have several meanings: kuromama (black beans in a boiled syrup) which symbolizes good health, kazunoko (herring roe seasoned with soy sauce) which is a symbol of procreativity, tazukur (a small sardine dish) that means a good harvest, kagamir-mochi (punded rice cakes) offered to the gods.

Photo 1: Grilled Pork with miso sauce  Photo 2: Stewed Pork Feet

It’s a Japanese tradition to eat osechi-ryori throughout the New Year’s holidays (until Jan. 3.) Traditionally, people finish cooking osechi dishes by New Year’s Eve so that they have food for a couple days without cooking. Most of the dishes can last a couple days in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature. Nowadays, people buy ready-made osechi dishes at stores instead of cooking them at home. It can be time-consuming to cook so many kinds of dishes. You can even order a set of osechi-ryori at department stores, grocery stores, or convenience stores.

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