In our Czech regions, we typically eat lentils on New Year’s Eve, because they look like coins, money, while in Japan, people enjoy New Year’s beans mame and decide to be honest and hardworking. It is because the word mame (beans) has a synonym and that is the abbreviation of the word majime – to be honest and work well. “Anata mame desu ne.” That means: “You are a hardworking person! That’s great!” In Japan, everyone wants to hear this. Be popular and feel good – what more could you want! Mame also means wishing good health. And so I think that it is best to eat both lentils and beans, but probably more of those beans and maybe many kinds. After the covid year, we have so much ahead of us that we have to decipher, so let’s be mame and much will be given to us.
What must not be missing in the right Osechi ryouri
The sun must not be missing in the right osechi, because without the light illuminated sunny days we would not be happy. Sun is represented by a beautifully curled yellow datemaki roll. It is a bit sweet, because even the sun’s rays are sweet to the touch. Datemaki contains eggs, white fish and shrimps. Another important osechi food is beans. Mame – we’ve already figured it out. They are black kuromame soybeans. Black may be discouraging, but when it comes to health, courage is needed. Mame is cooked for a long time and in addition to cane sugar, a very rusty nail is added to the pot. Probably not to be anemic. The algae combo also promises us good health. Pretty solid seaweed. Tuna fish is wrapped in it and together it tastes great! Kombumaki is cooked in dashi so that the food contains plenty of umami flavor. Good tastes for well-being! And then there is the tai fish, which is supposed to bring us happiness as a yakizakana. It can also be another white fish of similar qualities, it is important that we think about happiness when we eat it. To make a wish. To be omedetai. Celebrating! I remember how happily I pronounced a similar word “omedeta”, that was when I was expecting my baby. Omedeta, omedetai is something that is sincerely joyful. Even naively happy. Breath takingly happy. So you see – a piece of skillfully grilled fish and what it promises! Another osechi dish is kouhaku namasu. This also helps us to enjoy happy celebration. It’s made from carrots and radishes, but more than the vegetables themselves, their colors should appeal to us. Red and white. This pair, shown in the Japanese flag, is a strong motivation. National and personal. White is purity. Blessing. Spirituality. Red is love. Strong emotions, energy. Enthusiasm. Also fish eggs should not be missing in the osechi, preferably herring eggs kazunoko, because even the word kazu refers to a large number of fish children. And if fish then also human children. Love each other and multiply! And there in osechi must also be small salt-sweet sardine fish. They symbolize abundance. Among the goodies of osechi you will also find shrimp. What do they promise? You will be amazed – they promise old age. Longevity. They tell us that we don’t need to be afraid becoming a bit bended like shrimps. The main thing is to live long and joyfully live in pink spirit. Osechi ryori also includes dishes that are very luxurious or even exotic, such as lobster. And if the lobster, then the entire body with claws. During the New Year’s celebration of the first teapot named hatsugama, the host ceremoniously brings this sea creature in all its beauty to you. Everyone admires him loudly. Only I was stunned. It was absolutely new experience for me.
So as we eat this year’s osechi, let’s remember the sun, love, warmth, happiness, dreamy secrets, health, abundance and offsprings. In order for all this to be, we must work hard and be honest. Be mame.
The Japanese housewives nicely locate all the meals close together in beautiful boxes or on trays, which they then place in the middle of the dining tables so that everyone can take what they like. It connects the diners. And importantly, the hostess can take part in the feast also. In addition, most meals are prepared before the arrival of the new year so that people do not have to cook for the first three days of the year. The stove is off. The only thing that needs to be heated is the soup, which is called Ozouni. It has a regional tune what to put inside, but there is always a mochi rice cake in it. This is because rice is the most basic food for the Japanese. It’s a gift from Gods for people. Through the soup, people express their thanksgiving that they are and that they can be with their loved ones.
The beginning of the new year is the most important time in Japan. It is called Oshougatsu. After the midnight ringing of bells repelling human sins – numbered at 108 – people say goodbye to the old year. They come in whole families to pay homage the deities of the nearest shrines. They drink a sweet amazake rice drink. Reinforced and exalted, they return to their homes marked on the door with a straight pine branch with white-red ornaments. Osechi ryouri is ready. People can sit and eat. They continue feasting for three days and maybe more. Offices, shops, services… everything is closed. Full lockdown. But it’s a dreamed lockdown. Holiday. People eat, greet each other and eat. And then on the seventh day of the new year, they end their feast with a simple diet meal, and that is boiled rice with seven herbs. Nanakusagayu. In the end, sobriety is celebrated. Isn’t that nice?
There are many other customs associated with the New Year that are worth knowing. If you ever go to Japan, I highly recommend going there during Oshougatsu. Fireworks do not cross sky and rockets do not explode. There are no drunk people and broken bottles. Japanese Oshougatsu is a holiday of peace, tranquility and friendship, much like our Christmas.
We will soon be able to say to each other, “Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! It has come, so let us rejoice and receive blessings!” Until then, we can think about legumes like lentils and beens.
Yours, Miyabi Darja
We will offer Osechi in Miyabi from 31st December and we will prepare Nanakusagaya 7th January. Don’t forget to watch our current events, so that you don’t miss some of those goodies, here.