Happy New Year, everybody! Or as we Japanese would say, Akemashite Omedetō!
As many of my readers know, I’m a Japanese transplant to the Natural State. You can get a girl out of Japan, but you can’t get Japan out of a girl, so this author celebrates New Year’s Day religiously.
Japanese observe New Year’s Day like Americans observe Thanksgiving or Christmas. It is THE most important holiday for us.
Americans spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families and party with their friends on New Year’s Eve. There is no Thanksgiving in Japan, and although some Japanese celebrate Christmas with their immediate family, many Japanese spend Christmas with their friends, especially with their boyfriends or girlfriends. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, however, are for families.
The Japanese New Year is elaborate, especially when it comes to food. We spend several days before the coming year to cook special New Year dishes. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m allergic to many of the ingredients in Japanese New Year dishes, so I cook a minimum number of dishes each year.
I managed to take photos of some of the dishes. Hope you enjoy them!
Thank you always for reading GreenAR by the Day & I wish everyone a happy 2011!
Japanese eat noodles on New Year's Eve. Noodles symbolize longevity. Most people eat buckwheat noodles, but since I'm allergic to buckwheat, I eat udon.
We eat ozōni, or a Japanese soup with mochi, on New Year's Day. Mochi is a sticky rice cake. How you cook ozōni depends on where you're from. I'm from Nagoya, so our ozōni is very simple. We put mochi in fish or kelp broth flavored with soy sauce, and serve with boiled spinach, fish cakes, and fish flakes. Since I'm allergic to fish and spinach, my ozōni has none of them.
Eddy holding up mochi. See how stretchy it is! Due to its stretchiness, many older people choke on mochi, some times passing away. So far in 2011, thirteen people have died due to mochi's stretchiness.
Clockwise, kouhaku namasu, kuromame, kurikinton, and tataki gobō. Kouhaku namasu is made from daikon radish and carrots. Japanese consider the colors red and white to be good colors, so we make kouhaku (red-white) namasu (slaw) to celebrate the new year. I used carrots from Jerusalem, Arkansas, to make the slaw. Japanese eat kuromame (black beans) because the color black wards off evil. The pronunciation for the word beans (mame) is same as the word active, so we eat kuromame on New Year's Day. Kurikinton, or mashed Asian sweet potatoes with chestnuts, symbolizes wealth because the color is similar to that of gold. I used Asian sweet potatoes that I bought at the River Market Farmers' Market to make this dish. Japanese eat tataki gobō, or burdock roots with sesame, because burdock plants have very deep roots, thus they symbolize a good foundation.
We drank a good bit of sake, beer, and champagne. Once again, they disappeared before I had a chance to photograph them. I snacked on dried squid dipped in soy mayo while I drank.