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  • Phillip Radcliffe

New Year's Day in Japan

Updated: Jan 13

(Japanese translation below)


By Hiroto Ishii

New Year's Day is the first day of the year and is celebrated by people all over the world. The Japanese call it "Shogatsu," and a variety of events and customs are held to celebrate the New Year. Here are a few of the events celebrated at the New Year in Japan.


The New Year's gift is a custom in which money is given to children by adults, and in Japan this has remained a deeply rooted cultural practice to this day. However, it was not always the custom. In the past, rice cakes were a scarce commodity. As the number of families and households increased during Japan's rapid economic growth period, it changed from giving rice cakes to giving money, as money was more affordable than preparing rice cakes.


Osechi refers to a feast-like dish eaten on New Year's Day, with a variety of ingredients inside. Osechi is placed in a three-tiered box called Jyubako, which means "stacked box" in Japanese, because it is meant to be a layer of congratulations.


The dishes placed in each tier are determined, and each tier has its own meaning. The first tier contains a sweet mouthful like chestnut kuri kinton (candied chestnuts and sweet potatoes) and a celebratory snack that can be used as a snack for sake. Kuromame (black soybeans) is for health and strength.


Because of this, black soybeans are used to wish for diligence and hard work. Kombu Maki (kelp roll) is considered a good luck charm because of the word "yorokobo" (to be happy). Kurikinton (chestnut dumplings) were made by samurai warriors to bring good luck in battle using chestnuts they had gathered after winning a battle, along with kelp.


The second tier contains seafood and grilled dishes for good luck, as well as vinegared and dressed dishes. Buri is a fish known as a "success fish," a wish for success in the future. The meaning of the prawn is to wish for a long life until one's back becomes round like the prawn.


The third tier is a stew made with many ingredients from the mountains. The lotus root has a hole in it, which means to pray for good prospects in the future. Taro root has a meaning of wishing for the prosperity of one's offspring, as many taro offspring are produced from the parent taro.


One event at the beginning of the year in Japan is the buying of a lucky bag (fukubukuro) at department stores. One of the interesting features of this is that you do not know what is in the bag until you buy it. It is usually sold for less than the total price of the combined items, and buyers expect useful and luxurious contents.


However, some stores may have unsold or unpopular items in their bags. It is down to luck whether you get the luxurious and meaningful contents or the contents full of unpopular products. Incidentally, bags filled with only unpopular products are sometimes called "garbage bags" on the Internet.



年始

石井 寛人


元旦は一年の始まりの日であり、世界中の人々に祝われる日である。日本では「正月」と呼ばれ、新年を祝うさまざまな行事や習慣が行われています。ここでは、日本のお正月に祝われる行事のいくつかをご紹介します。


お年玉は、大人から子供へお金を贈る習慣で、日本では現在でも根強い文化として残っている。しかし、もともとはお金を渡す習慣ではなかった。かつて、餅は希少価値の高いものだった。日本の高度経済成長期に家族や世帯が増えるにつれ、餅よりもお金の方が手頃に用意できることから、餅からお金に変わっていった。


おせちとは、お正月に食べるごちそうのような料理のことで、中には様々な食材が入っています。そして、おせちは重箱と呼ばれる三段重ねの箱に入れられるが、これはおめでたさを重ねるという意味があるからだそうだ。


それぞれの段に置かれる料理は決まっていて、それぞれの段に意味があります。一の段には、栗きんとんのような甘い口当たりで、酒の肴にもなる祝い肴が入ります。黒豆は健康や強さを願うもの。このことから、黒豆は勤勉や努力を願うために使われる。 昆布巻きは「よろこぶ」という語呂合わせから縁起物とされています。栗きんとんは、武士が戦いに勝って拾った栗と昆布を使って、縁起を担いで作ったもの。


二段目には、縁起を担いだ海鮮料理や焼き物、酢の物や和え物などが入っています。ぶりは「出世魚」として知られる魚で、将来の成功を祈願するもの。海老は、魚のように背中が丸くなるまで長生きするようにという意味が込められています。


三段目は、山の幸をふんだんに使った煮物です。蓮根には穴が開いていて、将来の見通しが良くなるように祈るという意味があります。里芋は、親の里芋からたくさんの里芋の子供が生まれることから、子孫繁栄を願う意味があります。


日本の年始めの行事といえば、デパートで福袋を買うことです。これの面白いところは、買うまで何が入っているかわからないことです。通常、組み合わせた商品の合計金額よりも安い値段で売られており、購入者は便利で豪華な中身を期待します。ただし、店舗によっては売れ残りや不人気商品が福袋に入っていることもあります。豪華で有意義な中身を手に入れるか、不人気商品だらけの中身を手に入れるかは、運次第といえるでしょう。ちなみに、不人気商品ばかりを詰め込んだ袋を、インターネット上では「ゴミ袋」と呼ぶこともあります。


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