Happy New Year! Let's eat!

I'm in Osaka right now, probably walking around town. But thanks to the ability to schedule posts, I can make this post go live at midnight California time!

So, Happy New Year!
 Traditionally, Japanese people don't cook for the first several days of the new year (called oshogatsu). Instead, they prepare osechi for the family, a collection of boxed meals which are served cold. These tend to involve seafood and rice. Osechi sets can be purchased from supermarkets and other stores instead of preparing massive amounts of food, and for those who still follow the tradition it generally only lasts for one day.

My older students are more interested in following the osechi tradition, while younger students, especially the children, don't like it. I think only one of my school-aged students that I asked actually likes osechi meals.

Historically, osechi included only vegetables, but seafood and more recently even western food has been included. They're stored (and sold) in distinctive boxes that resemble bento boxes.

Osechi-ryori are the traditional Japanese foods served in osechi during the new year, and they all have significance. Even the arrangement is important. Soba noodles are an important part of the first osechi meal, too.
Japan is an ever-changing nation, always fighting between tradition and progress. Recently, there have been more osechi boxes offering western foods, but the real unique osechi are themed. I saw a military-themed osechi a few days ago; the top layer had a very traditional collection of food, but military ration packets were found beneath for the other few days. And the image above features members of J-Pop idol group AKB48, plugging their very own osechi boxes. It looks like the food in these is pretty standard, though I'm sure that box makes a nice souvenir for crazed fans.

You can't buy osechi in restaurants, and unless you're in Japan over New Years it will be very hard to try. And it's not cheap, as boxes start around 10,000 yen (about $100), designed to feed a few people for a few days. Prices can reach $10,000 for the luxury ones made by celebrity chefs, though - and they usually sell out! Given the high cost, I doubt I'll get a chance to try osechi any time soon.