Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Japanese New Year: Modernised yet Traditional

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Japan may be the tech capital of the world and highly advanced but the people of Japan still follow many traditions around the New Year. Japanese New Year celebrations may differ from the way the day is celebrated in other places around the world as there are various customs that the people follow which are inherently Japanese.

Importance of Food on New Year’s in Japan

Toshi-koshi Soba
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Food is a very important part of New Year celebrations and a certain kind of food is prepared and eaten during the New Year celebration that start on the 1st of January and continue till the 3rd of January. Different kinds of food items are prepared on these days and families feast together. Usually things get started on New Year’s Eve and as the Shinto bell rings at midnight, the festivities begin. On this day, toshi-koshi soba, a traditional Japanese delicacy is prepared. This dish basically comprises fish broth, soba noodles, solidified fish paste or kameboko, mirin and soy sauce. Each bowl of this noodle soup also comprises a deep fried prawn.

New Year’s breakfast is also something to watch out for as traditionally they are extremely elaborate and time consuming. But these days, people mostly keep it simple by having miso soup and mochi.

A New Year Tradition that isn’t Dead Yet

Osechi Ryori
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New Year in Japan is almost synonymous with Osechi ryori. Osechi ryori is a box that consists of traditional delicacies and sweets. These boxes are usually bought because it isn’t considered auspicious to cook on the first day of the New Year. The box has a lot of goodies like sweet black beans, rolled cakes, small fish, sweet egg, large prawns, etc.

The first day of the year begins by people watching the first sunrise and then digging into a light breakfast as the meals of the day are heavy. On the 2nd, family usually come over for a meal to the main family home and feast on things like crab, pork, etc. People of Japan also believe in eating ‘lucky’ food for the New Year like red snapper, shrimp, etc.

Few Other Traditions

Meiji Shrine
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People also visit the Meiji shrine and other important shrines during the first three days of the New Year. They also engage themselves in activities like Hanetsuki or Japanese badminton, karuta which is a card game and takoage or kite flying.

No matter how modernised Japan has become, most families still follow age old traditions. The New Year holds a lot of significance to Japanese families.


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