Osechi ryori is Japanese festive food for the first few days of the New Year. Traditionally, the New Year is considered to be sacred, so that people wore festive clothes and ate special food. Any labor including cooking was considered to be profane and avoided. Even now, Japanese businesses are closed at least for the first three days of the new year.
Festive osechi ryori is made up with many different things, all of which symbolize prosperity, happiness, or something associated to good. They look gorgeous, but tend to be overly salty or sweet in order to keep the food longer and avoid spoilage. They are well stewed vegetables, seaweed, or fish with soy sauce, sugar, and dashi.
Up to the middle of the 20th century, adequate refrigeration system didn’t exist. And most stores used to be closed for the first 7 days. People had to eat the same food up to 7 days, or until the stores reopened.
Now in the 21st century, life in Japan is vastly different from the past, but people still eat osechi ryori in new year. But those festive food, which used to be “special” are no longer attractive to many Japanese. Busy Japanese eat catered gourmet osechi ryori. Some of them even come in the shape of Hello Kitty.
My mom and grandma used to make osechi ryori every year before the New Years day and packed in 3-tier lacquered boxes. I honestly don’t miss many of those food, but there are several I liked. I love to eat datemaki (rolled sweet eggs), kurikinton (sweet chestnuts in mashed Asian sweet potatoes), kuromame (stewed black soy beans), and kazunoko (marinated herring roes) again.
I am thinking of making some this year on my own.