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Grandma's Osechi-ryori: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Grandma's Recipes|Grandma Masami's Osechi" (Grandma's Recipes|まさみおばあちゃんのおせち), was uploaded by "Grandma's Recipes."
Osechi-ryori is a traditional Japanese dish eaten on New Year's in Japan. In Japan, people are so accustomed to Osechi-ryori that many people don't know about the meanings attached to the dish. In this article, we'll take a look at traditional Japanese Osechi-ryori through the recipes of Grandma Masami who has lived through 4 Japanese eras.

Grandma Masami left her parents' house at the age of 8 and began working, and she is now 99 years old. In just half of her life, she endured many hardships, including two wars, the Great Kanto Earthquake, the Isewan Typhoon, the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and the Great East Japan Earthquake. Even so, she says with a smile how she lived an ordinary life. In this day and age when it's difficult to live an "ordinary life," these words must have a very significant meaning.

The purpose of these videos is to learn recipes for happiness from energetic grandmothers over the age of 80 who have lived through turbulent lives. This video focuses on Osechi-ryori, a recipe for happiness handed down by a grandma in Nagano, Japan.

The History of Osechi and Its Name

Image of osechi-ryori

Osechi-ryori was originally prepared as an offering to New Year's gods during seasonal festivals, such as Sechie (an official event held at the Japanese Imperial Court on national holidays) and Sekku. It is said that it was not until the Edo period (1603-1868 A.D.) that they began to be served in stacked boxes and prepared as New Year's dishes as they are in modern-day Japan.

"Osechi" is written as either "お節" or "御節" in Japanese. This naming also comes from Sekku, and the common interpretation is that the meaning is an abbreviation of Sechie.

Classic and Regional Recipes for Osechi-ryori

Image of osechi-ryori, three side dishes
Photo:Osechi-ryori, three side dishes

Although there are regional differences in osechi-ryori recipes, the basic recipe consists of three celebratory dishes (three side dishes), nishime (simmered vegetables), sunomono (pickled or vinegared food), and yakimono (grilled food).
These three dishes are commonly made across Japan with black soybeans and herring roe. However, there is a difference: in Japan's Kanto region they use gomame (dried young anchovies), while in the Kansai region they use tataki-gobou (burdock root seasoned with sesame). The most common style of osechi-ryori is to use a four-tiered box containing 20 to 30 different dishes.

Some of the most popular classic dishes in osechi-ryori are datemaki (a rolled omelette mixed with fish paste), kinton (mashed sweet potatoes), kohaku namasu (thinly sliced carrots and daikon radish), kamaboko, grilled sea bream, teriyaki amberjack, simmered tiger prawns, boiled clam, kombu-maki (sliced dried herring or other fish wrapped in kombu seaweed and boiled), and chikuzenni. The use of such auspicious and high-quality ingredients as sea bream, amberjack, and prawns gives the dish a celebratory atmosphere on this special day.

In recent years, ingredients for osechi-ryori can be found in supermarkets after Christmas. There are many items that are nearly fully prepared, so osechi-ryori are relatively convenient to eat nowadays.

The Meanings Behind Osechi-ryori

Image of osechi-ryori, kurikinton
Photo:Osechi-ryori, kurikinton

Here are some of the meanings and hopes attached to osechi-ryori.

●Kurikinton (chestnuts and mashed sweet potatoes)
In addition to its gorgeous and beautiful golden appearance, chestnuts are said to bring good luck in victory and prosperity.

●Kuromame (black soybeans)
This dish is to wish for good health and the power to work another year.

●Kazunoko (herring roe)
This dish is associated with wishes for prosperity of one's children. This dish is a celebratory food, and is associated with fertility.

Image of osechi-ryori, kombu-maki
Photo:Osechi-ryori, Kombu-maki

Kombu is associated with happiness and comfort in old age. Kombu-maki, a type of kelp roll, is also used as a symbol of union and contains wishes of prosperity for one's offspring.

Grandma Masami's One-Person Osechi-ryori

It is becoming more and more common to have osechi-ryori delivered on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day in Japan, rather than making them at home, through commercial or online delivery services. Osechi-ryori themselves are becoming more and more varied, with Chinese, French, and even children's osechi-ryori appearing at the end of the year, rather than being solely Japanese style.

The focus of this video, Grandma Masami, is now 99 years old! She lives alone, but she makes her own osechi-ryori every year. Although it looks like a simple osechi for one person, the handmade miso soup made from dried sardines, walnut rice cakes, steamed rolls, kinpira, namasu, and nishime all look delicious.

[Video] 5:00 - Making Burdock and Carrot Kinpira
[Video] 7:14 - Making Steamed Rolls

Soybeans – The Secret to a Long Life?

Image of soybeans

When Grandma Masami is asked about the secret to her long life, she explains how she was poor and worked hard, but ate a lot of soybeans and other legumes, saying that maybe this was the secret to her good health.
When Grandma Masami is asked about the secret to her long life, she explains how she was poor and worked hard, but ate a lot of soybeans and other legumes, saying that maybe this was the secret to her good health.
Soy sauce, miso, natto, tofu, okara (soy pulp), and soybean flour. We can see that soybeans are as important an ingredient in the Japanese diet as rice. It's also an essential ingredient for making osechi-ryori. Soybeans are said to be a "kanzen shokuzai" (完全食材, a food that contains all the nutrients necessary for humans to maintain good health) with a well-balanced combination of lecithin, dietary fiber, isoflavones, protein, carbohydrates, and various vitamins and minerals. It's no exaggeration to say that soybeans are the secret to the longevity of the Japanese people. Soybeans have played a prominent role in Japanese food and the health of the Japanese people since the Heian period nearly a thousand years ago.

Summary of a Japanese Grandma's Osechi-ryori

While gorgeous osechi-ryori are a feast for the eyes, simple and healthy homemade osechi-ryori like Grandma Masami's recipes are also good. Why not try making your own this winter?

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 29, 2022
児玉 勇(Yu Kodama)
A writer who loves Japan and yakitori

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Traditional Japanese Osechi Dishes Made by a Japanese Grandma. Learn Life Lessons From the Energetic Grandma Masami
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