Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year)

By Emily Burich

Every year on the first of January, my family and I celebrate Oshogatsu, also known as Japanese New Year.  I love celebrating this memorable holiday because I catch up with my extended family and friends as we welcome the new year.  Everyone brings their dish to share as we converse about our hopes and resolutions for the new year.  Some of the foods we eat aren’t traditional Oshogatsu foods, but here are some of my favorites. 

Ozoni Soup:

Every year, my grandma tells me that Ozoni soup is the most important because it’s the first thing we eat on New Years Day.  This dish represents health, prosperity, and happiness for the New Year.  Ozoni can have a huge variety of ingredients, but here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Mochi (rice cake) represents longevity because of its stretchy texture.  
  2. Kamaboko is a red and white fish cake; the colors represent Japan’s flag and are said to bring good luck.  The red color is meant to prevent evil spirits, and the white represents purity. 
  3. Shiitake mushrooms: the shape of the shiitake mushroom cap resembles the soldier’s hat from the olden days that soldiers wore on the battlefield.

Soba (Noodles):

Toshikoshi Soba, also known as year crossing buckwheat noodle, is a Japanese tradition of eating a bowl of soba noodles on New Year’s Day. It’s said that since the noodles are easily cut, they symbolize letting go of the past year’s regrets.  

Chicken Teriyaki:

Although chicken teriyaki isn’t a traditional Japanese New Year food, my family makes it every year and it’s very delicious.  Teriyaki is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which foods are broiled or grilled with a glaze of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.  It adds a lot more flavor to the chicken and is definitely one of my favorites on New Years.


Sushi has always been a fan favorite in my family.  I’m not a picky eater but there’s two rolls that I absolutely love and totally recommend.  The first is kappamaki, which is just a slice of cucumber wrapped in a thin roll of rice and seaweed.  It’s also the safest bet for vegetarian and vegan sushi-lovers.  My other favorite is the california roll: a makizushi sushi roll that is usually rolled inside-out, and containing cucumber, crab or imitation crab, and avocado.  

It’s a wonderful thing to start off the New Year with family, friends, and delicious food.