Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy Year of the Tiger!

What a dazzling New Year’s Day we are enjoying in Tokyo. Cold, crisp winter air and a clear light that washes everything clean and shiny bright.

Three quick and perhaps interesting cultural notes…

2010 is the year of the TIGER according to the Chinese zodiac, and is a system the Japanese have long followed. The top photo here is my own New Year card for 2010, which I make and send to friends. Hope you are able to read my cramped “Best Wishes.”

The sheet of Japanese tiger stamps is a special issue commemorating the New Year. The Chinese character in each design represents ‘tiger’ (tora) and the two at the top (left and center) are most commonly used. The calligraphy is by ten different well-known Japanese artists.

Traditionally, the food most Japanese eat over the first three days of the new year is an assortment of special dishes related to the holiday, collectively called o-sechi ryôri. These dishes are prepared in advance, which frees wives and mothers from having to cook during the first days of the year. Most, or many of these dishes can now be bought in the local markets, and are often served in something called a jûbako, or stacked enamel boxes. The photo above shows some samples of the dishes explained below.

o-zonirice cakes in vegetable soup

kurikintonmashed sweet potato with sweetened chestnuts

datemakisweet omelet cut into squares

sudakosliced and vinegared octopus

kombu-makirolled seaweed

namasuradish and carrot with citron (Chinese lemon)

kamabokoboiled fish paste

taisea bream

ebishrimp (symbolic of long life)

kuromamestewed, sweetened soybeans (symbolic of hard work)

kazunokoherring roe (symbolic of fertility)

renkonsliced lotus root (The holes are symbolic of windows to the future.)

o-tosospiced sake, or rice wine.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America