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Japanese New Year's food is called osechi-ryori, and consists of many different kinds of dishes. It's a Japanese tradition to eat osechi-ryori throughout the New Year's holiday or until Jan. 3. Traditionally, people finish cooking osechi dishes by New Year's Eve so they have food for a couple days without cooking. Most of the dishes can last a few days in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature. Colorful osechi-ryori dishes are packed in layers of lacquer boxes, called jubako. Each dish and type of food in osechi has meaning, such as good health, fertility, good harvest, happiness, long life, and so on. Nowadays, many people in Japan buy osechi at stores instead of cooking them at home since it can be time-consuming to cook so many kinds of dishes. If you are in Japan, you can order a set of osechi-ryori at department stores, grocery stores, or convenience stores. The kinds of osechi dishes eaten at Japanese homes vary from region to region. Osechi cuisine is packed in three or four-tiered lacquer boxes called jubako. Here's what goes in where. Ichi-no-ju (top tier) Kuromame (black beans), a symbol of health, are boiled in syrup. Kazunoko, with its myriad of tiny eggs, is a symbol of procreation. It is usually seasoned with soy sauce. Tazukuri symbolizes a good harvest, and consists of tsukudani made with small sardines. Kurikinton is kuri (sweet chestnuts) and mashed satsumaimo (sweet potato) boiled in a sweet sauce. Terigomame are baby sardines simmered in sugar and soy sauce till sticky while datemaki is a sweet cake-like egg that symbolizes knowledge. Ni-no-ju (second tier) Most items in this second box are seafood tidbits to be snacked on while imbibing hot sake. Namasu is a salad of shredded daikon (Japanese radish) and carrot seasoned in vinegar. Also included are: vinegar-seasoned octopus, vinegar and lemon juice marinade of squid, cucumber, grilled shrimp, and Japanese turnip. Marinated pond smelt is also popular. San-no-ju (third tier) The third box holds mostly vegetables and roots. Most vegetables in this box are seasoned with sugar, stock and soy sauce and pair well with rice. Broiled taro, twisted konnyaku and other root vegetables are common. Yo-no-ju (fourth tier) Nishime (simmered root vegetables) is comprised of artistically arranged vegetables such as carrot, gobo (burdock root), renkon (lotus root), yatsugashira (taro), etc.


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