when and where to see fall foliage (Japanese version only):

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year holidays

The Japanese have valued a sense of the seasons from ancient times.I want to tell you about the sense of the seasons through traditional Japanese confections, handicrafts, bunraku(文楽:Japanese puppet theater) mainly for one year.
The Japanese traditional events were originally held according to the lunar calendar. Even now the other East Asia countries' ones such as New Year holidays are held in the lunar calendar. In Japan the dates for events vary in area or event nowadays.

looking Japanese doll's houses, please enjoy Japanese New Year holidays.
This one is modeled after an old house of Kyoto, which have an old and formal style.

The other represents the house of the common people about 1970. There was a boom in the era of the rapid economic growth which inspired the Japanese with hope for the future.

We welcome a deity of the year bringing a good harvest at the beginning of a year.the deity goes down from the sky to New Year's pine and bamboo decorations or New Year pine decorations.

We don't cook for three days so that 'the deity of the kitchen range(竈の神様)' can take three days off. We eat osechi-ryori(御節料理) which are traditional Japanese New Year foods for three days.
Many people do not cook but buy them now. My mother cooked most of them when I was a child, me and my sister helped her. We fill the square nest of boxes with foods related to longevity, descendant prosperity, good harvest, lucky words. they have a rich taste to be kept for a long time. They are intended to please the eyes, so that we use cutters in the shaped of blossoms and flavour with pale-coloured soy sauce.

This is my japanned square nest of boxes. The foods that make up osechi each have a special meaning associated with good luck. I'll introduce some of their typical ingredients.

黒豆(kuromame : black soybeans)
伊達巻(datemaki : fish omelet rolled up)
栗金団(kurikinton : Mashed sweet potatoes containing sweetened chestnuts)

数の子(kazunoko : herring roe)
昆布巻き(kobu-maki : rolled kelp with fish in it)
田作り(tazukuri : dried young anchovies)
八幡巻き(yahata-maki : rolled beef (or conger, eel) with burdock root(gobou) in it)

お煮しめ(o-nishime : vegetables boiled and seasoned)


The chopsticks for New Year holidays, both ends become narrow. Because people and the deity eat New Year dishes together.


The New Year's present is big pleasure for a child with pocket money to the child.

We eat soup containing vegetables and rice cakes for New Year's Day called ozouni(お雑煮) with osechi-ryori. Originally the contents of the soup are offerings to the deity. It is cooked in various ways according to regional custom.

Here, some of square rice cakes are baked on a Japanese heating appliance using charcoal as fuel called hibachi(火鉢). Baked (or boiled) and square(or round) rice cakes can be included in ozouni.
In old days a housewife did not cook on the three days, but busy for reception to visitors or relatives.On the other hand, they took a rest on January 15, so it is said New Year holidays for women.

One of the traditional games Japanese play during the New Year is karuta, Japanese playing cards. This is iroha-garuta which is the most traditional karuta and uses 47 Japanese proverbs, each of which starts with one of the 47 Japanese syllables.
Using cards with pictures and words, people compete to find picture cards that match the card being read aloud. There are one hundred waka poem cards based on Ogura Hyakunin-isshu, a famous poetry anthology selected by Fujiwarano Teika in the Heian period.

Round rice cakes modeled after an ancient mirror, is placed in the tokonoma(alcove). We decorate kagamimochi with various symbols of good luck:
a fan spreads out wide toward the end; daidai(橙) like an orange means successive generations;a shrimp looks like an old man bent with age;A thing such as black paper is kelp; A dried persimmon has a wrinkled surface like an old man. A dried persimmon has been used as a lucky charm more than 400 years. Makers peel inedible persimons, thread them onto skewers, place them in the sun for two months from the end of October and care about every little part of dried ones. The works except peeling are still done by hand. A dried persimmon is used not in Kanto region but in Kansai region.

餅花(mochi-bana : rice cakes or dumplings on a stick)

年賀状(nengajou: a New Year's card)

獅子舞(shishi-mai:lion dance)
It's a performance for protecting people from sickness and against evils.

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