Kodomo No Hi – Japanese Children’s | Boy’s Day 2012

On Saturday, May 5th we celebrated Japanese Children’s Day | Boy’s Day. Our family got together for a grand potluck to celebrate with, none other than, food.

When we pulled into the driveway of my parent’s home, we saw that my Dad raised my brother’s koi nobori on a traditional bamboo stick and the colorful carp were flying in the wind. Koi nobori are wind streamers in the shape of carp that are traditionally displayed above the rooftop homes in Japan to honor Boy’s Day or to celebrate young boys in the family (read more about Boy’s Day history and the significance of koi nobori in my 2010 Kodomo No Hi post) . It’s very similar to how families celebrate young girls on Hinamatsuri or Girl’s Day by displaying hina ningyo, or dolls, wishing for their children’s good health and growth. (Follow these links for my posts on Hinamatsuri: 2012, 2011, 2010.)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

In addition to koi nobori, my Mom displayed my Dad’s gogatsu ningyo (traditional samurai warrior displayed on Boy’s Day). Because this was gifted to my Dad, likely by my great grandparents when he was born, his gogatsu ningyo dates back over 65 years. It looks quite similar to that of my brother’s gogatsu ningyo (above) but the difference is in the details. (My poor iPhoto skills below don’t do my Dad’s doll justice.)

As for the food, we had, as always, too much of a good thing. We had sushi, and my Dad’s chicken wings, soba salad, yakisoba, chicken tsukune (teriyaki seasoned meatballs), potato salad, Korean kalbi, kalua pork, striped sea bass, edamame, and ebi chili (spicy shrimp stir-fry). It was an international mix of really delicious food. I am so thankful for my family and the good eats they provide!

In addition to Children’s | Boy’s Day, we also celebrated my Dad’s birthday and an early Mother’s Day so I opted to make kalua pork (follow link for recipe) for my Dad, since it’s one of his favorites. Then I made a two layer Jello with fruit, since Jello is a favorite of my nephew and Bebe E. To my brother’s EXTREME disappointment accompanied with groans and a few whines, I did not make Jello jigglers – to which he says, “BOO!!! Double BOO!!!” (I can’t help but to laugh and tell him to make these himself since he claims it is SO easy to make.)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

After lunch, Aya-chan offered to take my nephew and Bebe E out for a walk. I love the photo above that my bro-in-law took of the two of them walking hand-in-hand. It gives me warm-fuzzies. (Never mind the times they spend fighting over toys or refusing to share with one another!)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

For dessert we enjoyed a delicious cake from Angel Maid Bakery, a favorite among Westside Los Angelenos. The cake is marble sponge cake, vanilla pudding, fresh strawberry slices and real whip cream. It was oh-so-delicious!!! Thanks to my brother for selecting the important details about the cake. Angel Maid – you’re the best!

Happy Mother’s Day! I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Judy

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Hina Ningyo Sushi (Dolls Made of Rice) | Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day) 2012

The week leading up to March 3rd, or Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day), I was busy running errands to different Asian supermarkets. Bebe E was excited about her Hinamatsuri party and when I mentioned that I needed to cook or that I needed to run an errand, she started asking, “for my hina-ma-sri party?” :)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Many thanks to my bro-in-law for taking some amazing photos at our Hinamatsuri party! He has great shots from trips, hikes, surf competitions, race cars, Rose Parade floats, the list endless! Please take a moment to view his photography by clicking on the link.

This is also the same week that I somehow managed to french braid Bebe E’s very limited, and very fine hair and tie the ends with pink ribbon. I discovered that my husband’s hair gel does wonders for baby fine hair, making it much easier to handle. After taking pictures of her braids and showing them to her, she asked, “please, Bebe E have these for my hina-ma-sri-party?” :)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

Crafts is one of Bebe E’s favorite activities and it’s a great way to make a holiday more memorable. We also enjoy gifting our crafts to our loved ones. Last month, for Valentine’s Day, we made cards, paper hearts, lady “luv” bugs, and cupcakes.

For Hinamatsuri, I found a cute Japanese paper doll bookmark dressed in a kimono (traditional Japanese garment) and obi (sash). The doll had three pieces that needed to be cut out and assembled with glue.

I also found a cute hina ningyo (Japanese Girl’s Day dolls) calendar/coloring sheet on a Japanese website. Bebe E colored a hina ningyo sheet especially for Obaachan (her maternal grandma). She said her picture was “the same as Obaachan’s hina-ma-sri” (referring to the dolls on display) and wanted to give it to her.

Bebe E colored this all by herself. I like how she is doing a good job staying within the lines! Look at those oranges! I think that she might have inherited more than a few of my personality traits. :) 

The Hinamatsuri display has between one and seven platforms. I taught Bebe E that on the top row of the hina ningyo display is where the Prince and Princess sit. The girl on the right is the Empress, or “Hina-Sama” in Japanese, and the boy on the left is the Emperor, or “Odairi-Sama” in Japanese. Together, they are known as dairi-bina (or imperial dolls). (More info on Hinamatsuri available here.)

On the the second row is where the three ladies sit. These are the Ladies in Waiting, or “San-nin Kanjyo“. That’s a lot of info for a 2 year old. What she retained is that there is a princess and a prince – she was happy. :)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Ohina-sama (Empress) from our hina ningyo collection.

My mom displayed just a handful of my (now Bebe E’s) hina ningyo from the nana-dan (seven platform) set that my maternal grandparents sent from Japan when I was born – – – decades ago. :) We joked that the hina ningyo set is now “vintage” but sadly, it really is fairly old! Unfortunately, a small handful of the items from our set were damaged due to unforeseen circumstances but I’ve almost reassembled the set, thanks to my Auntie & Uncle in Japan.

Next year, we should be able to display all seven platforms… stay tuned in 2013! In the meantime, it is important to keep in mind that parents in Japan traditionally celebrate Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day) to wish their young daughters happiness, good health and marriage in life. (See my 2011 Hinamatsuri post here.)

Over the weekend, I hosted a family Hinamatsuri party for Bebe E and my baby niece. We celebrated with 17 family members. It was as though we were re-visiting our Oshogatsu celebration, sans 20 Japanese dishes.

I made a simpler version of last year’s Hinamatsuri chirashi sushi. This year, I kept the toppings simple: kinshi tamago (thin egg omelette), snow peas, kaiware (radish sprouts), kamaboko (fish cake), ebi (shrimp), amazu renkon (pickled lotus root), and ikura (salmon roe).

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Chirashi sushi recipe post is available here.

I also made edamame gohan. In addition, we ordered a platter of nigiri sushi, inari, and futomaki sushi from our local Japanese deli, and my Dad grilled our favorite salt and pepper chicken wings and salmon.

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Edamame Gohan (rice with soy beans, seaweed and namesake mushrooms).
Recipe post is available here.

Typically, for Hinamatsuri, asari no sumashijiru (clear soup with clams) is what my Mom used to serve us when I was a little girl, but one year I made asari no miso shiru (recipe post here) and this year, I asked my Mom to make miso shiru (miso soup recipe post here) and tonjiru (pork miso soup), just to change things up a bit.

For dessert, I considered making sakura mochi (follow link for recipe post) which is a traditional Hinamatsuri wagashi (Japanese sweet rice cake dessert), but our lunch menu consisted of chirashi RICE, edamame RICE, inari RICE, futomake RICE, and nigiri RICE. Too much rice/carbs! Instead, I served fresh fruit and of all things, jello, because that’s what Bebe E enjoys. My brother purchased some kashiwa mochi from our local Mitsuwa.

While I made quite a bit of food for our Hinamatsuri party, I made special sushi shaped in the form of the dairi-bina (imperial dolls) this week for Bebe E and Big Onechan. I used leftover white rice and a little help from packaged foods (yes, I am resourceful at times).

 Hina Ningyo (Girl’s Day Dolls) Sushi
Left – Emperor carrying a sword made of snow pea; Right: Empress carrying a fan made of decorative kamaboko (fish cake). *The empresses hair is slightly wilted – mistake putting on the hair while rice was still warm. Sadly, Hideki was not available to take photos of my hina ningyo sushi. I’m guilty AGAIN of hastily using my iPhone. :)

Bebe E, Big Onechan and Bebe Dada all got a kick from the little hina ningyo sushi. I thank my friend Aloha Girl for sharing this wonderful recipe from her mom who made a set of hina ningyo sushi dolls on Girl’s Day (March 3rd) over the weekend. ♥

Hina Ningyo Sushi

Shortcuts:

1. I remembered that I had a package of pre-seasoned and pre-cooked inari ageh in my refrigerator, thinking I’d make a few quick inari sushi either for lunch or dinner. This is sold at the Japanese supermarket.

2. I also remembered I had a package of Sushi Taro brand instant sushi mix (yes, I keep a variety of unusual items in my pantry, fridge and freezer). I didn’t have any leftover awase-zu (seasoned vinegar) from the chirashi sushi that I made over the weekend, so I used Sushi Taro. It has a retort package of gomoku mix and also a packet of powdered awase-zu. Not glamorous, but it works. Sprinkle hot rice with powder awase-zu and allow to cool slightly. Use desired amount of seasoning to achieve desired sushi rice flavor. I did not use the gomoku mix for the sushi dolls.

Assembly:

1. Prepare kinshi tamago. (See my chirashi post for more on kinshi tamago).

This is a very thin egg omelette. I’m used to making tamagoyaki, which is a thicker egg omelette so the first kinshi tamago omelette I made was rather THICK. Proper kinshi tamago is never browned. You might be able to tell from my photo that the emperor’s egg kimono is thick AND browned. Oh well. Not perfect, but cute nonetheless! :)

Combine 2 eggs with dashi shoyu. If you don’t have seasoned soy sauce, use a dash of salt or combination of soy sauce with dried dashi (bonito stock) powder. *Homemade dashi recipe post available here.

Using a very small pan (24 cm), heat a very small amount of oil, pour a very small amount of egg (just enough to cover the pan) and cook on medium low until just cooked. Flip omelette over, cook another 2 minutes until firm. NOTE: I have a very small rectangular pan so I ended up with rectangular egg kimono. These required trimming.

Remove egg and allow it to cool. Don’t slice the egg. Make a second thin egg omelette.

2. Make sushi rice (recipe post here) or use my short-cut, “Sushi Taro” package, and mix powder awase-zu with warm rice.

Set aside a small portion of the rice for the sushi doll’s heads.

Using saran wrap, place a heaping scoop of rice on top of saran wrap. Close saran wrap and shape rice into an oval. See my onigiri post on details regarding use of saran wrap for working with cooked rice.

Make two (2) oval rice balls. Rest on a dish, side by side. If you do this while the rice is still warm, it is more pliable and can easily be made to stand.

3. Prepare inari ageh according to package instructions. I highly recommend this short-cut over cooking and seasoning inari ageh for this project.

Cut each end of the inari pouch along the SIDE folds to create one large rectangular piece of inari ageh.

4. Wrap the rice balls with the inari ageh. I made my rice balls TOO big and therefore needed two (2) inari ageh per sushi doll. Oops! Now I know better!

5. Wrap the inari kimono with the tamagoyaki kimono. I had to trim the edges and then I rounded the back “cape” of the kimono. Bebe E enjoyed eating the trimmings from the kimono. :) I must admit that I had difficulty with the emperor’s tamagoyaki kimono because it was too thick and wouldn’t properly close. I considered using toothpicks to hold it together but decided, it didn’t have to be perfect.

6. Make little rice balls for the heads of the sushi dolls. If you do this while the sushi is relatively warm, it will easily adhere to the body of the doll.

OPTIONAL: The original recipe called for boiled quail eggs for the heads of the sushi dolls. The quail egg is held in place using a toothpick. I felt this was an expensive item for the doll’s head (especially as I only made two dolls). A less expensive alternative is sato imo or taro root. The Japanese supermarket sells frozen satoimo balls for relatively cheap, but I didn’t have this ingredient in my freezer, which is why I went with the cheaper and more readily-available rice!

7. Accesorize!

Cut nori (seaweed) into desired hair pieces. I made bangs and long hair for the empress and a Japanese chonmage, a traditional male hairstyle from the Edo period seen on men (you might recall images of samurai with the little loop of hair on the top of the head) for the emperor. NOTE: I recommend waiting to add the “hair” until the rice cools a bit, otherwise your hair will wilt! (Oops, that’s what happened to mine.)

You don’t have to make eyes, but I did – out of scraps of nori. It was difficult to pick-up the little scraps of nori but I managed. It easily stuck to the warm sushi. Kitchen tweezers might work well in this situation.

Trim snow pea lengthwise, using the flat portion of the pea and discarding (or eating) the portion with the beans). Shape this into a sword for the emperor. Place this in front of him.

Slice kamaboko to become the empresses fan. Place this in front of her.

VOILA! …

Hina Ningyo Sushi Dolls – Emperor and Empress!

Special thanks once again to Hideki Ueha for the amazing photos on this post!
(I am credited with the not-so-hot photos – haha.)
A warm-hearted special thank you to Aloha Girl’s Mom for the sushi doll recipe!

This concludes our Girl’s Day celebration for 2012. I’m looking forward to celebrating many more Hinamatsuri in the years to come.

Happy Hinamatsuri!!!

Judy

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Amazu Renkon (Sweet Vinegared Lotus Root)

As I was preparing to make chirashi for our Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day is March 3rd) party over the weekend, I remembered that I liked the amazu renkon, or sweet pickled lotus root, as a topping for chirashi, but I couldn’t find it in my recipe index.

Of course, it was logically embedded in last year’s 2011 Hinamatsuri chirashi post, but I decided amazu renkon needed a recipe post all on it’s own post, and I share this with you today, together with my 2012 Hinamatsuri Sushi Doll post.

Continue reading

Kuromame (Sweet Black Soy Beans) | Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year) 2012

明けましておめでとう!

Akemashite Omedetou!

Translation: Happy New Year!

A few years ago, I vowed to learn how to make osechi ryori, or traditional Japanese New Year’s food. For as long as I can remember, every year, my Mom would make several different types of osechi ryori for our family to eat on New Year’s Day. Today, this is still true, to a certain extent, but recently I’ve been trying to help her by making a dish or two. Last year, I made one easy-peasy dish, koya dofu, and my Mom taught me how to make ozoni – a traditional New Year’s mochi (rice cake) soup. This year, I made two dishes, koya dofu and kuromame, or sweet black soy beans.

I never liked kuromame growing up.

I mentioned in my 2011 oshogatsu (New Year’s) post that I would, on a good day, force myself to eat maybe one or two beans, just to satisfy the oshogatsu (New Years) requirement that eating kuromame was good for your health and that eating a bean would promise good health for the year. (Never mind that I ate a bunch and started the New Year with a cold….)

2012 is Year of the Dragon

It turns out, that when you cook something, you’re more likely to eat it. This year, I ate a good handful of kuromame, with a bean count close to 15. Crazy, isn’t it? I tried to feed Bebe E a bean and she put it in her mouth but she spit it out. I think it was likely the texture of the kuromame since she seems to have a sweet tooth. Perhaps one day, like me, she will actually eat a handful of kuromame and enjoy the sweet and slightly savory soy bean. Perhaps if she cooked some herself one day, she will change her mind, as I did.

As usual, our oshogatsu celebration was one filled with lots of family, good laughs, and of course, delicious food. In my 2011 oshogatsu post, I listed the traditional food that we eat, along with the meaning behind each type of food. Therefore, I’ll limit my 2012 oshogatsu post by simply sharing some photos. :)

Our oshogatsu spread on our main dining table. There is a second 6′ table with food, as well as a small table for dessert and snacks. :0)
Lots of mouths to feed = lots of food. Love it!!! 

This year, my Mom made two types of sushi rice – gomoku sushi rice (large photo on left) and inari sushi (top right photo). We ordered are usual sushi platters from our local Japanese market. Continue reading

Chirashi Sushi | Hinamatsuri 2011 (Japanese Girl’s Day)

I originally planned to post this on Friday, March 11th, but it turned out to be the morning after the 9.0 earthquake that hit Sendai, Japan on March 10, 2011. It seemed inappropriate to immediately post a celebratory chirashi sushidish that I made for a festive Japanese holiday, Girl’s Day.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with all of those who continue to struggle in the devastating aftermath in Japan. We’ve been fortunate that our family and friends in Hiroshima are safe. We have also heard from most of our family and friends in Tokyo that they are also safe, but they are dealing with the aftershocks and aftermath of the quake the best they can. A good friend of mine in Japan claims that even in Tokyo and as far away as Fukuoka, toilet paper, batteries, and portable heaters are in shorter supply now, or not even available in some stores, given the panic that’s settled across the country as people buy supplies to send to those who do not have access, or to store for themselves in the event of another earthquake. This inconvenience however, seems minor in comparison to those in and around Sendai who lost entire neighborhoods, towns, families, or even their own lives in the earthquake and tsunami. The number of lives lost to date is 8,500 with over 10,000 missing.

Please consider donating through Citizen Effect to double the impact of your contribution. We did. Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, and his wife Wendy, are matching every dollar donated through Citizen Effect, up to $100,000.
All donations will be directed to the American Red Cross (ARC).
100% of your donation, less 3% for credit card transaction fees goes directly to the ARC.
As of today, it appears that the Schmidt’s goal has been met. That’s what happens when I don’t post things right away!
Regardless, below are links where you can help.

Japan Earthquake Relief Fund

American Red Cross Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami Fund

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For some reason, one thing keeps happening after another and life keeps flying by. During this time, I completely missed my 1st blog-a-versary. Yes, it’s been a year since I started my blog on March 5, 2010. For weeks and weeks I thought about what I could make that would be extra special to commemorate, what to me is, a meaningful anniversary, and what did I do? I FORGOT ALL ABOUT IT! Such is my life these days. I forget A LOT. I believe it’s a result of sleep deprivation, possibly being too busy at times, and (GASP) old age. Perhaps, I was simply pre-occupied with Hinamatsuri and this is the real reason why I forgot about my first blog-aversary.

Not too long ago, Bebe Dada was traveling on business and Bachan (my Mom or Bebe E’s grandma) stayed with us for several days. She happened to be with us on Girl’s Day, or Hinamatsuri, which is celebrated annually on March 3rd. As I mentioned in last year’s Hinamatsuri post, growing up, my Mom always made sure that we celebrated Girl’s Day. Continue reading

HOMEMADE Zenzai (Japanese Red Bean Soup with Rice Cake) | Oshogatsu 2011 (Japanese New Year)

Does anyone know how long the terrible-two’s last? Is it one year? Is it two years? Two and a half years?

Over the weekend, Bebe E found a black ballpoint pen and drew a nice long dark squiggly line down the entire length of one cushion of our sofa. Nice, huh? And technically, she’s not even two yet. Scary.

Of course, we have “coloring time” where Bebe E opens her little box filled with washable crayons and magical markers with invisible ink where the color only appears when used on special coloring book paper. She even has a nice musical coloring pad that Big Onechan gave her for Christmas that plays music with the pressure of every stroke of a crayon, but clearly that’s not entertaining enough. The sofa, our home, is her canvas. :)

Bebe E’s abstract art of little lines. Mama helped with the big squiggles.

I’m really not sure how she got a hold of that pen, and what drove her to write on the sofa. She’s a baby after all, right? But this tiny act of vandalism, a.k.a. creativity, likely means that her Mama, Dada, or Big Onechan didn’t do a good job putting the pen away and ultimately means that her latest artwork was likely not entirely of her own creation. Yes, she’s cute, she’s quickly absolved of home vandalism, and she evades time-out… this time.

While time-out’s are quickly becoming a familiar word in her vocabulary, she’s only been in time-out twice in the past month. The first one lasted a whopping 3 seconds as she quickly ran away from her corner, not really understanding that staying in the corner was punishment for bad behavior. The second time-out lasted, maaaaybe, 10 seconds. That time I believe she realized that she did something “bad” but as I walked away from her corner, gently instructing her that she needed to sit there for 20 seconds and that we could count together, in her cute tiny baby voice she inquisitively said, “mama?” and followed after me. All I could do was to turn around and try to give her a big hug and kiss but she walked right past me to go do her own thing. Heh-heh. I think she was telling me that she was mad at me for giving her a time-out. I just had to laugh. Continue reading

Ozoni (Mochi Soup) | Osechi-Ryori (Japanese New Year Food) | Oshogatsu 2011 (New Year)

Goodbye 2010, hello 2011!

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year!

The holiday season flew by so quickly, I almost can’t believe the New Year has arrived. Yet here I am once again, asking Bebe Dada if he made any New Year’s resolutions. He told me he did, but this year he is keeping them to himself. While I wouldn’t share them on my blog even if he did tell me what they were, the nosey side of me nagged him for a good 10 to 15 minutes, repeatedly asking, “What are they? Come on, tell me, please? Why won’t you share!” I’m annoying, I know. :)

I myself think about making resolutions at the beginning of each year, but ultimately I stray from making any specific resolutions such as eating healthy or exercising, for example. I admit that I don’t really make any resolutions, not because I don’t believe I will keep them, but because throughout the year I often find myself reflecting upon my day, or specific situations and I think about how I could have handled something better or how I could be a better person, mother (step), wife, daughter (in-law), sister (in-law), aunt, niece or friend. (Sounds like that “continuous improvement” concept my business books kept referring to back in the day when I actually read business books.) The bottom line is that despite my short-comings, mistakes, missteps, misspoken words or actions, deep down inside, I always want to do better and be an even better person although sometimes it might not always seem that way.

Mom’s Kagami Mochi New Year’s decoration flanked with 2011 Year of the Rabbit Ceramics. The two different sized mochi’s were handmade by my BFF’s parents who do mochitsuki (make mochi from scratch) every year. According to Wikipedia, the two mochi symbolize the coming and going years. The daidai (or bitter orange atop the mochi, which is actually a Satsuma Mikan in the photo) is said to represent the continuation of a family from one generation to the next. In addition, the kagami mochi display sits atop a sheet of paper, or shihobeni, which is believed to ward off fires from the home. Every year, for as long as I can remember my Mom displays kagami mochi around New Year’s. It’s a tradition I’ve always associated with oshogatsu.

On a lighter note, a lot has happened since reflecting about New Year’s resolutions and my last post in mid-December 2010. We celebrated Christmas with my husband’s side of the family, then with my side of the family, and then with my sister-in-law’s side of the family. I also had the chance to reconnect with some friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in a very long time, as well as to enjoy a leisurely lunch with a handful of my best friends.

2011 Rose Parade Float – Pasadena, California.
We thought the Rotary Club’s bear float was really adorable. We watched the volunteers glue white mums to the bear’s face.

Last week, one of the fun day-trips we took was to Pasadena so that we could watch the Rose Parade floats being decorated. I hadn’t seen the floats decorated in years and it brought back good memories of my childhood. An Uncle was a long-time supporter of the Tournament of Roses and annually served on it’s committee. He often took my Aunt and I to watch the floats being decorated but I have even fonder memories of walking to the parade from my grandparent’s home in South Pasadena with my family to watch the floats, bands and horses turn the corner on Orange Grove. After the parade we always went to look at the floats on display so we could experience the beauty of them close-up and enjoy the wonderful smell of the flowers.

Mom’s Oshogatsu Ikebana Display.
My Mom is a master ikebana sensei (flower arrangement instructor) although she has since retired from teaching.

While this childhood Rose Parade tradition eventually changed when my grandparents left California and moved to Japan, one family tradition that hasn’t changed is that we always celebrate oshogatsu with family, and we always eat ozoni on New Year’s morning. Actually, in my youth I often ate ozoni for lunch since I couldn’t wake up in the morning after an evening celebrating New Year’s Eve. Other times, my parents had to postpone our oshogatsu celebration until the early afternoon so that I had time to drive back from Las Vegas. Ah, the days of my youth… seems so long ago but it was only four years ago that Bebe Dada and I last celebrated New Year’s Eve together with friends in Vegas! It’s crazy how fast time flies. Anyway, regardless of the time of day, ozoni is still the first soup with which I always start the New Year. In addition to eating ozoni, we celebrate the New Year by feasting on osechi-ryori, traditional Japanese New Year’s food.

As a child, I never really cared for osechi-ryori, with the exception Continue reading