Osechi [御節(おせち)]

Osechi[御節(おせち)] or formally,Osechi-ryōri[御節料理(おせちりょうり)] are traditional and special dishes eaten in Shōgatsu[正月(しょうがつ)](Japanese New Year).


The name 'Osechi' derives from Osechiku[御節句(おせちく)] which originally meant the offering for god and ceremonial dishes eaten at Sekku[節句(せっく)](the day of seasonal point and the event).

In the Heian Period(794-1185), Osechiku was eaten at court on Sekku. And it is said that spread into the common people in the late Edo Period(1603-1868). Shōgatsu is the first and most important Sekku and the word 'Osechi' is used for traditional dishes eaten at Shōgatsu now.

Osechi has thick tastes or low moisture dishes because of keeping their quality for several days. Osechi is prepared and cooked by Ōmisoka[大晦日(おおみそか)](New Year's Eve) and many people eat that without heating at Shōgatsu. Therefore, Osechi are not delicious dishes. As a reason for eating that, it is said that there was a custom of avoiding to use fire to rest the god of Kamado[竈(かまど)](Japanese oven) at Shōgatsu and also, women take it easy at home without cooking at Shōgatsu.


Osechi dishes are basically put in the stackable boxes(formally, four boxes) called 'Jyūbako[重箱(じゅうばこ)]'. Japanese people eat Osechi with drinking Otoso[御屠蘇(おとそ)](Sake drunk at Shōgatsu). Each Osechi dish has a different meaning of hope and good luck.


The main Osechi dishes are as follows:

  • boiled and sweetened Kuromame[黒豆(くろまめ)]
    Kuromame is a black soy bean. Mame means bean but that also means healthy and earnest. This dish contains a wish for working healthily and earnestly enough to get sunburn like the skin turns black.


  • Kazunoko[数の子(かずのこ)]
    Kazunoko are mass of herring roe. Kazunoko symbolizes a wish for the prosperity of descendants.

    Matsumae-zuke of Kazunoko
    Matsumae-zuke of Kazunoko
    (Matsumae-zuke is a seafood pickles,
    that is a specialty of Hokkaidō.)

  • Tazukuri[田作り(たづくり)]
    Tazukuri is a dish of dried sardines boiled with soy sauce and sugar. Tazukuri contains a wish for abundant harvest because sardines were used as a fertilizer. Tazukuri is also called 'Gomame[ごまめ]'

  • Red and white Kamaboko[蒲鉾(かまぼこ)]
    Kamaboko is a steamed fish paste. Red and white colors are used at the time of celebration.

    Red and white Kamaboko

  • Datemaki[伊達巻(だてまき)]
    Datemaki is a rolled omelet with fish paste. That shape is like a scroll and it is a symbol of study.


  • Kobumaki[昆布巻き(こぶまき)]
    simmered fish wrapped in Konbu / Kobu[昆布(こんぶ / こぶ)](kelp). 'Joy' is 'Yorokobu[喜ぶ(よろこぶ)]' in Japanese and it is associated with the word 'Yorokobu'.

  • Kuri-kinton[栗金団(くりきんとん)]
    Kuri-kinton is a dish mixed Kuri(chestnut) fruits with sweetened and mashed Kuri and sweet potato(or only mashed Kuri). That symbolizes a wish for economic fortune because that is like gold.


  • Grilled sea bream
    Sea bream is Tai[鯛(たい)] in Japanese and It is associated with the word 'Medetai[めでたい]' which means 'auspicious'.

Osechi can also be placed a pre-ordered at department stores, restaurants, supermarkets and on line. In recent years, not only traditional Osechi but various Osechi such as French, Chinese Osechi are sold.

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