Japanese Culture - Osechi is Dish Served on New Years

“Osechi” are traditional foods which are eaten by a lot of Japanese on New Year’s Day. It includes many kinds of Japanese traditional foods, and they are packed together in “Jubako”, which is a special box that resembles bento boxes.

The ingredients and menu items used in Osechi ryori are filled with wishes for a bountiful harvest, good health, and the prosperity of one's descendants. In addition, a stacked box is used to express the meaning of "layering the happiness".

What kind of food is packed in which tier is also decided. In this issue, we will introduce the contents of a four-tier Osechi dish and the meaning of each ingredient. *Menus and ingredients may vary depending on the region and customs.

First tier
The first layer, which is the top layer when stacked, is filled with festive snacks and "kuchitori" such as kamaboko (fish cake) and kurikinton (sweetened chestnuts) to accompany sake.

- Datemaki
Datemaki is a sweet omelet. Since the shape resembles a scroll, it is used to wish for increased knowledge and success in academics.

- Kuri Kinton
Kurikinton is sweet potato and candied chestnuts. It is thought of as a yellow gold and is used to wish for abundance.

Second tier
The second layer is filled with grilled seafood. Ingredients considered to bring good luck and luxury ingredients suitable for celebratory occasions are also used.

- Tai (sea bream)
A small sea bream is served grilled. The word "me-tai" and its red color make it a dish suitable for celebratory occasions. It also has the meaning of a lucky fish held by Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune.

- Prawn
This is unglazed prawn. The long whiskers and curved waist are considered a symbol of longevity, and it is a good-luck item to wish for a long life.

Third tier
The third layer is stuffed with simmered vegetables from the mountains to bring the family together in harmony.

- Nishime
Nishime is boiled root vegetables. The standard ingredients are lotus root, which is said to bring good prospects for the future because of its holes, and taro, which is said to bring prosperity to offspring because it produces many small potatoes. Many root vegetables that have long roots in the soil are used to wish for long-lasting happiness.
 
Fourth tier
The fourth layer is filled with a dish that serves as a chopstick rest, such as a vinegared vegetable dish.

- Red and White Namasu (Vinegared Vinegared Pork Cutlet)
This vinegared dish is made of shredded daikon radish and carrot. It is believed to resemble a mizuhiki, a lucky charm, and is used to wish for peace and tranquility.

- Kiku-hana-kabu (chrysanthemum flower turnip)
Vinegared turnip decorated with chrysanthemum flowers and dyed red and white. The auspicious chrysanthemums and the red and white color bring good luck.

Osechi dishes are very time-consuming and labor-intensive, but they are very much imbued with the creator's wish for family happiness. The creator's wish for the happiness of the family is very important.