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Osechi Ryori: Making Traditional Japanese New Year Foods (Challenge Shizuka)

By Ashley Owen
January 27, 2021
Updated: November 2, 2021

Osechi Ryori is perhaps one of the most important meals of the year in Japan. This elaborate Japanese New Year food is eaten over the first few days of January and consists of many different small dishes which each have a symbolic meaning that represents a wish for the year ahead.

Osechi is traditionally served in a beautiful three-tier jubako (lacquered box) and takes several days of preparation. In this special Challenge Shizuka episode, host Shizuka Anderson attempts to make a variety of Osechi dishes for the first time. Let’s take a look and see how she does!

Japanese New Year Food: Shizuka Attempts Osechi Ryori

Whereas New Year in many western countries is a time to celebrate at parties with friends, Japanese New Year is much more about spending time with your family – and Osechi Ryori is a big part of this. Prepared well in advance so that everyone can relax over the holiday, each part of the meal is specially chosen to bring good luck. For example, the datemaki rolled omelet made with fish cake represents learning and scholarship because it’s shaped a bit like a scroll, while kuromame black beans are associated with health.

Close-up of osechi ryori dishes, including kuromame black beans and datemaki rolled omelet

Although Osechi Ryori is a key part of Japanese New Year celebrations, these days most people tend to order ready-made boxes of Osechi rather than cook all the dishes themselves. That’s why for this challenge Shizuka takes an Osechi cooking class with the friendly and talented Manami-sensei to learn how to make some of the key parts of the meal herself.

Close-up of a small white bowl of  tazukari (candied sardines)

Shizuka first has a go at making kurikinton, a classic Osechi Ryori recipe made from mashed sweet potatoes and candied chestnuts, which symbolizes wealth thanks to its vibrant golden color. She also makes smoky tazukari (candied sardines) with walnuts for an abundant harvest, plus kohaku namasua refreshing salad made using crunchy shredded daikon radish and carrots mixed with vinegar, sugar, and yuzu citrus fruit. Of course, Manami-sensei gives lots of helpful cooking tips on making traditional Japanese food along the way!

With all of the cooking finally complete, Shizuka and Manami-sensei sit down together to taste what they’ve created, including soft and chewy homemade mochi rice cakes in ozoni soup.

Close-up of ozoni Japanese New Year's soup

To make the meal really special, they enjoy some otoso spiced sake that’s steeped with Chinese spices and herbs such as ginger and sansho pepper for an extra warm flavor.

Otoso spiced sake cups and pot for serving

Be sure to check out the video to see how gorgeous the finished Osechi Ryori looks – and how well Manami-sensei thinks Shizuka did at her challenge!

Join an online cooking class with Manami-sensei! 

Has this video inspired you to try your hand at some traditional Japanese cooking? Join Manami-sensei’s fun and active Dance Your Way to Delicious Noodles: ONLINE Ramen Class!

With an upbeat soundtrack of Japanese pop and anime songs, you’ll learn how to make your very own homemade ramen from scratch. Manami-sensei will teach you a special technique to knead wonderfully chewy ramen noodles from a simple recipe with easy-to-find ingredients, plus the perfect soup broth to serve them in. Private classes are also available with additional choices of dishes to make, plus there are vegetarian and vegan options, too!

Browse more online food experiences in Japan or check out some other Japan by Food YouTube videos!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan’s food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Ashley Owen
Ashley is a freelance travel writer from the UK who spent the last two years living in Japan, and is about to embark on her next adventure to New Zealand. She's always on the lookout for exciting new vegan treats wherever she goes!
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