Or Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Nuevo! Bonne Annee! Or Vorsprung Durch Technik as they say in Germany. ‘Tis another year and I ain’t getting any younger, more is the pity. Damn this aging process. Still debating on whether to grow my beard super-long and then have the ultimate comb-over to hide my bald spot. It is an idea worthy of deep consideration.
So we had a busy Xmas and I basically conked out afterwards (fever, swollen lymph nodes, general feeling of “urghhhh”), thus missing out on delicious new year foods at my wife’s family home. Damn… Japanese new year food is fantastic. New Year is pretty much like Christmas in England: family, gluttony and napping. “The Great Escape” hasn’t made it over here yet though.
Osechi is a set of dishes made only (I believe) at New Year, rather like mince pies and Xmas pud. Absolutely delicious and some quite healthy. I could eat the daikon dish (namasu) every day. Below is a photo from a rather excellent Japanese cooking web-site I found recently. I frequently use this site when cooking dinner, as I figure my family would prefer not to be clutching their stomach in agony on a regular basis.
As with so much of Japanese cuisine, the presentation is incredible.
Another Japanese food eaten at New Year is omochi, which are rice cakes. You can toast them, heat them on foil in a frying-pan or just blast them in the microwave. Then cover them with soy sauce & sugar, kinako (roasted soy bean flour) or anko (red bean paste). They are totally fantastic and an essential part of oshougatsu (New Year). But also, rather tragically, they are a fatal aspect to New Year here for some. Every single year there are reports of people choking to death on these rice cakes. They are very sticky and dense in their consistency and sadly many old people do not chew them enough, swallow and the cake gets stuck in their throat. Please take a look at this article from last year’s BBC news: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42537953
Although Christmas has become very popular in Japan in recent years, it is quite different to the Xmas I grew up with. I tend to go all out to create a British Chrismtas for friends and family (probably why my body shut down after the last gathering we had). New Year is the big event here though still, and families head back to their home-towns to stay with parents. The chilldren receive little envelopes of cash on January 1st from their relatives. This is called otoshi-dama and obviously is something the children anticipate eagerly. The amount in the envelope increases as the children get older, starting at a 500 yen coin when very young, going up to a thousand yen bill when they begin elementary school. I believe this is fairly standard all over the country.
Another new year tradition is the sending of nengajo (new year post-cards). If you watch TV on the 1st January, you see footage of postmen heading out on their scooters to deliver the mountains of these cards. Japan follows the Chinese zodiac so each year the cards have a different animal as their theme. This year is the year of the boar. So perhaps a year when we all charge head-long into everything…
And finally we have the shrine visit, the first one of the year being called hatsu-mode. This is a chance to see some exquisite Japanese kimono. The weather is generally good at new year (at least in the Kanto area), with blue skies and crisp air. Just heading out to a shrine and soaking up the atmosphere is a must if you are ever in Japan at this time of year.
<NOTE: I have been pulling up images from the net. If anyone has any objection to an image, please contact me!>
So this is the January blog coming to a close. I missed December because…I was busy releasing Ragnekai Moons! Drum roll, cymbal crash, fireworks exploding above, cannons booming and…yeah, just general noise.
So fare thee well, one and all! I wish everybody the best for 2019. May this year bring good health and good fortune. And thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blogs! It is much appreciated and I hope you find the posts of interest. Till we meet again!
AKEMASHITE OMEDETOU GOZAIMASU!
Japanese New Year, a time to visit family.