Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Japanese New Year: Endless amounts of food

My brother's girlfriend made some excellent "futo maki" (sushi rolls).
I had a fairly traditional Japanese New Year this year. In Japan, New Year is a big deal, and most people have several days off from work. You celebrate the new year with your family, so this is the time of year where it is most expensive and difficult to get plane tickets, and there used to be lines of cars standing still for 80 km when everyone was going back home to gather with their relatives or when everyone was going back to the cities to work after the holidays.

Some octopus, sushi, ham, and other things.
The main activity is doing nothing, and eating. Traditionally, not even housewives where supposed to work during the New Year celebration and they had to work lots before instead, making enough food to feed the whole extended family for three days.

Toshi koshi soba
There are some foods that you are supposed to eat. On the 31st, you eat "toshi koshi soba" ("bringing in the new year soba"), which means soba noodles, with no additions (i.e. no meat etc.) but in extreme amounts. You also eat "osechi ryouri", lots of small dishes of traditional food. Most are based on some kind of word-play system, so you eat beans to have a year where you are serious in studies or work because the word for bean is "mame" but "mame" is also the word for serious. There is also a lot of other food that you eat, and you drink a lot of alcohol.

Crabs are not particularly New Year but they are very Hokkaido, where I am from, so I am usually asked to bring crabs with me.
Swedish cheese is not normally available at Japanese New Year tables, but my brother had brought some with him which was nice for me. Also, cheese slicers like the one in this picture are almost unheard of in Japan (they get pre-sliced cheese here).

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