After I contemplated long enough what to write on my blog this time, I decided to share a little bit about my culture.
So, winter holidays!
Christmas is something.. a very interesting concept in Japan, and since another Japanese fellow Mari already covered it, I will write about our new year. So new year is the official holiday as to Christmas is not. We have usually the first three days of January off from work – except the post office. The new year cards called “Nen-ga jou” are supposed to be arrived on 1st of January to be polite for delivering gratitude for the “care” (something close to favor, affection, lessons along those lines derived from people’s interactions) given in the preceding year, and celebrating and greeting for the new year. The part time job at the post office for students is very common in the end of the year for sorting cards out and delivering them the night of 31st and all day of 1st. They close on 2nd understandably, and reopen on 3rd to continue dealing with influx of the cards. Why 3rd when it supposed to arrive at 1st? Good question. People write ridiculous amount of new year cards, and often times receive cards from whom they had not written to. So in 2nd day of the new year, they make another round of card writing and post them so that the cards will be collected for the 3rd delivery. If cards arrive on 3rd, you are still okay and should not be embraced too much for the delay. It is very tiring to write after about 30th of the cards (depends on how much you decide to handwrite of course), but it is fun that you can assume that you get the same amount of cards. Reciprocity is a very important idea in Japan.
Yes, festive cuisine!
Japanese people celebrate with their traditional food with special recipes for new year’s cuisine. It is called “Osechi,” meaning, a festival occasion. I just learned that among some festival occasions in Japan, new year is the biggest, and that is why it is called a festival occasion cuisine. I think Japan has those kinds of stories a lot. It is very straight forward, even the language is very indirect.
Another important concept for understanding Japan is “Engi”. According a Japanese-English dictionary, it means omen, a sign of good/bad luck. I think for now it is good enough.
Lastly, I am going to introduce some of the interesting recipes for Osechi. Each recipe has meaning and wish attached to it.
1. Kobu-maki (Rolled sea tangle)
“Kobu (or Konbu)” sounds close to happy/pleased in Japanese “Yoro-kobu”, so it reminds of good Engi. Tangle is a very healthy food, and used as a hidden flavor all year around. This recipe assigns tangle the starring role. Go Konbu!
2. Ta-dukuri (Small fish of anchovy fish)
Small but with heads and fins. We don’t cut them. It is said that people used to spread the fish on rice and vegetable fields as manure praying for abundant crops. Japanese are also agricultural people as well as fishing people. Not anymore with output with modernization, but the agricultural identity is well reflected in its tradition.
3. Kazu-no-ko (Eggs of herring fish)
Preying for having children and prosperity of posterity. The fish is known for producing (I don’t think “bear” is the word) numerous children, and it is good Engi. “Kazu” means numbers and “Ko” means child.
…There is another, my favorite soup, called “Ozoni”, but it is very difficult to explain. So I just leave only the name of recipe.
Meanwhile, I have to say that I very much miss my grandmother’s Osechi cuisine. I hope I can make it to Japan sometime soon!
Have a happy new year everyone! よいお年を。