While the infamous tradition of eating KFC at Christmas is true for some young people in Japan, the real star of festive Japanese cuisine is osechi-ryōri (a variety of traditional New Year’s Day foods). Like British Christmas puddings, they’re often prepared weeks or even months in advance to allow the flavours to mature. Although osechi can be ordered many families have their own homemade recipes and, as with many Japanese New Year traditions, each osechi ingredient or dish has a special meaning. For example, kuromame (“black soybeans”) represent a wish for good wellbeing as mame can also mean “health”.
Osechi is easy to spot in stores and food halls, due to the eye-catching jūbako it’s presented and stacked in.