Welcome The New Year With These Traditional Japanese Dishes

These dishes have varied meanings behind them.

Countries around the world have their own way of celebrating the beginning of the new year. Japan also has their own way, quite a unique tradition as a matter of fact! In this article, we look at what most Japanese folks eat during this time of the year.

Toshikoshi Soba

On New Year’s Eve, people eat soba noodles
 made of buckwheat to wish for longevity. This is because the shape of the noodles are long and thin.


People eat a special meal called
Osechi on the 1st day of the New Year for breakfast. Traditionally, foods are packed in oju or 4 layers of square-shaped luxurious box. Each ingredient in osechi has an equivalent good meaning behind it from its shape, or name. For example:

  • Kuromame or simmered black beans: represents diligence because the word “bean” and
  • “diligence” have the same sound of mame in Japanese.
  • Ebi or shrimp: stands for a wish for a long life because the shape of a shrimp looks like an old man’s back bent with age.
  • Kombu or sea kelp: “sea kelp” has a similar sound with the words “To be glad,” pronounced as yoro “kobu.”
  • Kazunoko or herring roe: means fertility in family because a herring lays many eggs.
  • Kuri-kinton or mashed sweet potatoes with candied chestnut: represents wealth because the word kinton written in kanji resembles the image of a lump of gold.

Kagami Mochi

Kagami Mochi
is one of the traditional New Year decorations that can be seen in many Japanese homes. This mochi is a stack of 2 rice cakes topped with Japanese orange. Rice cake is a common offering to Shinto gods because its round shape represents the mirror often used in Shinto ritual as well as one’s soul. It is believed that the New Year god rests upon the kagami mochi of every Japanese home. Therefore, people do not cut it with a knife but patiently wait until it naturally cracks before eating. This practice is done in order to take a part of god within one’s body. The day is set on January 11, called kagami biraki.

Celebrate the New Year in Japan and indulge yourself in their traditional dishes fit for the occasion. Happy New Year!

 (12 December 2019)

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