Year of the Monkey Stickers

It’s Fall… Time to Order Cake, Postcards, and O-sechi!

It is November 1st, and fall is officially upon us here in Kyoto. The markets are full of purple sweet potato and persimmons, the wind is picking up, and all around, the leaves are turning ruby and gold, the cherry trees’ last hurrah before the Japanese maples take their thunder.

But with fall, and the excitement of cooler days and snug winter coats, comes another feeling. In the U.S., people are gearing up for the Christmas shopping season and Black Friday––in Japan, it’s time for cake, postcards, and o-sechi, the New Years feast.

The year end holidays (Christmas and New Years) are important times of year for families, though Christmas is considered more a romantic holiday than a time for consumerism. Lovers in Japan visit illuminations, and families sit together for a tradition made largely popular by KFC: fried chicken for dinner, and then a round, white Christmas cake. (The history and current trends of Christmas cake are explained quite well in my partner’s own post from last year.)

However, despite KFC’s genius stroke of marketing, the custom doesn’t preclude other companies from getting in on the action. Convenience stores and supermarkets all around Japan start releasing their mail order Christmas and New Years brochures in October, and after Halloween, their pervasiveness only grows. There are so many options for food and cake that at times it can feel like shopping for a wedding dress.

O-sechi is especially important as the New Years holidays see everything closed, including grocery stores. These elaborate, two or three-tiered boxes are meant to last three days, and are ordered far in advance.

Since this is my last year in Japan, I am going to go all out. I’ve never ordered o-sechi, and I’m going to this year, despite the relative cost. And I figured while I was at it, I’d go ahead and have one more Christmas dinner the way Japan (or KFC) intended it: with cake.

But…. I think I’m going to make it a little more amusing for myself. I’m going to let the blogging universe help me decide what to eat!

Now, all of the catalogs are in Japanese, but I think the photos are mostly self-explanatory. I’ll add descriptions where appropriate. As well, currency exchanges look pretty much like this: ¥10,000 = $100 (so, just move the comma back a space and make it the demarcation between dollars and cents!)

Let me know in the comments below what you think look best (photos are titled A-Z, and each piece of food has its own catalog number) and I’ll order the one with the most votes!

CAKE OPTIONS

DINNER OPTIONS

O-SECHI OPTIONS

And finally, the best part of the new year for me: POSTCARDS!

I love sending out postcards. Two years ago, I sent out around 100 handwritten postcards for New Years, and I want to do it again this year. I’d love to send you a card!

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If you’d like a New Years postcard from Japan with a personalized message, I’m offering postcards to anyone who signs up for newsletter at the following link. I will NOT use your mail address for anything else besides this event. My newsletter is merely a weekly bulletin letting you know if I’ve posted anything you might want to come back and read.

CLICK HERE FOR SUBSCRIPTION LINK

CLICK HERE FOR SUBSCRIPTION LINK

57 thoughts on “It’s Fall… Time to Order Cake, Postcards, and O-sechi!

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thank you Crispian! I’ll take that into account, for sure. I’m not all that sold on the hotel ones… I was just pointing out how expensive they get, haha. I think I may grab one of the ones with not so many shellfish, in the end. Even though I really want to try a lobster one, Japan has given me a mild allergy to shellfish, and I don’t want food poisoning on New Years! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Crispian Thurlborn says:

        That would be awful! I’ve had that from some rotten pork I ate once 😦

        Out of those you’ve presented here, though, I did like that first option that best. reasonably priced and the shop front looks good too 🙂

        Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I’m not a fan of KFC either! I’ll be getting my chicken from somewhere else, haha. I tried KFC our first year and it was just way too greasy. The cakes are lovely, but I assure you the cakes in your area probably taste better. Kyoto-ites love subtle flavor, which means sponge cakes all the time, and whipped cream, not icing. I miss the rich punch of flavor a good American cake gave me!

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      That’s MY problem, haha! I need someone to help me!! Though, I’m whittling the options down in my head. I’ll have to decide soon! 😛

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      The chocolate torte does look pretty good! I’m considering that one, or the caramel tart, because at least I know those will have a richer taste!

      Like

  1. i002537 says:

    The cakes are hard, but I was fully swooned at caramel. A5, I think.
    Fried Chicken is not only traditional but one of the only things I could not eat but would want to. I can’t te;; what is in the boxes, but if you like the box, how can the food be anything but yum!
    Enjoy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Yeah, the caramel is looking pretty tasty!! I’ll be getting the fried chicken, but looking for the least greasy option. My body is starting to reject all the oils in my favorite foods.

      I can recognize most of what is in the boxes (and it’s tasty, for a cold winter food) but I need to stay away from shellfish where I can…. apparently I’m mostly allergic to Eastern shellfish!

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Me too. 🙂 I think I’ll go with something non-white cake, as we actually get those regularly through the year… but then again, strawberry white cake is the traditional choice…. GAH! I just need to put the options in a hat and let fate decide! 😛

      Like

  2. shoreacres says:

    I would take the petits fours in option L. That way, I could try two. Or three. Or… The fried chicken just knocks me out. It’s rather like learning that SPAM is the thing in Hawaii. Who knew? I haven’t had SPAM or KFC in years, but this certainly does help to explain their continuing prosperity.

    I haven’t a clue about the o-seichi, but I did ponder them (it?) for a moment as a Japanese version of the Harry and David gift towers. Actually, there are several companies here who do those, and they always look wonderful. Are those shrimp/crawfish/whatevers real? Don’t they go bad? Clearly, we’re going to need more pics and details once you get yours and have plowed into it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Yeah, the medley options look like a fun compromise. I’ll have to consider them. And you wouldn’t believe how big KFC is in Japan. The Colonel actually has an interesting myth related to baseball in Japan, if you ever want to look it up for your fun research projects. 🙂

      I’ve never heard of Harry and David gift towers. Where are those usually bought/received? I can imagine, but I think your explanation would be way more interesting!

      And yes, all the food is real, but it is super fresh. All seafood over here is. 🙂 I will definitely be blogging about it! Maybe even vlogging it!

      Like

      • shoreacres says:

        Harry and David is an upscale gift food business. Here’s a link to their gift towers. They’re known especially for fruit — some of the best pears in the world — but there are many treats I love. The chocolate-covered bing cherries come to mind. Now, I believe I’ll go browse their current offerings. (Their business is primarily online.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lissa Clouser says:

    I don’t think I can even begin to pick the things you should order, but I VERY MUCH look forward to hearing all about your choices once the season arrives! I’m happy to hear you are going all out for your last year. Money is important… but experience is too. Make this year one to remember. (And of COURSE you know I love getting mail from you, but I signed up for your newsletter too. Why not? I love hearing about your adventures and your writerly updates as well.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Yes, I’ll definitely be able to write about them all! It’ll be a journey! 🙂 I owe you a couple letters, so I’ll be sure to send you some over the holiday!

      It’s important for me to get as many experiences in as I can these last few months. I know we will visit again, but I don’t want any regrets.

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Lol. That got a good laugh out of me. 😀 Yeah, there are waaaaay too many choices, but I’ll manage! And thank you. 🙂 I’m looking forward to a super fun holiday season. ILLUMINATIONS!

      Like

  4. noelleg44 says:

    What overwhelming choices you’ve given us. I’d choose one of the traditional cakes and since you will be getting KFC in Canada, why not go for a turkey? With regard to the boxes, how to choose? Pick one that you personally will find delicious. What wonderful traditions!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      They are really fun traditions. 🙂 I’ll eventually decide on something, even if it’s by lottery. 😛 I think I’ll also choose an osechi that looks like it will have lots of flavor variants. I don’t want to be eating the same thing for three days! 😛

      Like

  5. saraletourneau says:

    You do realize that you’re torturing us by showing us all these pictures of food we might never get to eat, right Alex? *lol*

    I’m a choco-holic, so #s 7, 10, and 12 and L-01 made me salivate right away. As for the other two meals… I honestly can’t choose, since it’s hard to know what it’s some of the less familiar dishes. Except the turkeys and chicken!

    Honestly, Alex, you and your partner should choose what you ladies would like to eat for O-sechi. Whatever you get, I hope you savor every bite of it!

    And that’s very sweet of you to send us postcards, Alex. Do you already have our address if we signed up for your newsletter previously? (I already receive it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thank you! Your vote for L-01 gives it two votes, more than any other! 😉 (So far, at least, haha). Sorry to make you hungry…. but you must be able to imagine walking around all the shops with the flyers everywhere… so excited to eat one finally! Especially since mid-December to mid-January, NJ will be in Canada, so It’ll just be me and my novel projects…. no work, either!

      I don’t have your postal address if you signed up before, Sara… will you send me an email (info@alex-hurst.com) so I can make sure you get one? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. TRISTA says:

    I vote for the green matcha cake, because it’s green and matcha, enough said, right? The rest is too overwhelming and making me hungry. I’m really glad you’re fully engaging in the tradition for your last winter in Japan, and I can’t wait to read about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I’m looking forward to writing about it (while eating). It’s going to be an adventure. 🙂 Matcha is always, always a good choice!!

      Like

  7. C. West says:

    I’m actually in Kyoto at the moment on student exchange and am facing the same struggle of picking a Christmas cake! I’m terrified of trying to reserve one because I am not confident in my Japanese. Have you ordered one before? Would you mind letting me know what your process was?

    As far as which cake for you, I vote for #18!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I have not ordered one before, but if you go to a local cake shop, it would probably be easier! They can help you arrange a date/pick-up. 🙂 What part of Kyoto are you in? I know several good bakeries in the Sakyo-ku area!

      Like

      • C. West says:

        I think I agree with you about a local shop. I have been looking at the cakes at my nearby Kyoto Family and Friend Mart, however, it is always extremely busy inside and rather overwhelming.

        I am here Ukyo-ku (Saiin station is the nearest train stop) but would not be adverse to traveling a bit. I have no problems with the subway/train, surprisingly! I would love to hear your recommendations, thank you very much!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Alex Hurst says:

          There’s a wonderful cake shop to the east of Kyoto Botanical Garden, out of Kitayama Station (about 2 blocks east, just beyond the McDonalds, on the corner). They make beautiful, delicious cakes and are quite friendly. As far as my memory goes, they know a bit of English! While you’re there, you can take a stroll through the gardens, or make your way to Kinkakuji or Ryoanji, if you haven’t visited them. They’re both beautiful! 🙂

          Like

  8. C. West says:

    Ah thank you very much. I have not been to either Kinkakuji or Ryoanji so it seems that I could make a productive one stop trip to see them and reserve a cake 🙂 I have a break from classes coming up later this month.

    Thank you for the information and directions 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I just left the address in the comment above. Definitely check them out! Ryoanji will be absolutely stunning after Nov. 18th or so. Bring your camera! ^_^

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      No problem!! Glad I could help. Feel free to come over here any time if you’re looking for something to do. Fall and Winter are Kyoto’s best seasons!

      Like

  9. joannesisco says:

    I love the idea of getting a year-end post card and signed up!! Thank you. I would happily send you a Christmas card if you would like to send me your address to my email account 🙂

    I’m ga-ga over all the choices for cakes, chicken, and o-sechi. KFC sounds like such an odd tradition. I hope whatever choice you make exceeds your expectations 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Hi Joanne! I waited a few days to see if your email showed up, to no avail… would you mind popping your address over to me at info@alex-hurst.com so I can make sure you’re on the postcard list? 🙂

      I think I’ve got two of the three figured out, now! Getting excited! ^_^

      Like

      • joannesisco says:

        oh -I wonder what happened? At any rate, no problem … will send you an email 🙂

        Hopefully we will hear about your choices. I’m excited for you …. admittedly, I’m a cake person and those cakes all looked wonder 😉

        Like

  10. njmagas says:

    I’m so jealous of your photos. I’d say that I’m jealous of your Christmas/New Years feast to come too, but I’ll be back home stuffing myself so full of turkey and other western holiday goodies that I don’t think I’ll have enough room in m for more jealousy. I’ll send you pictures. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jean says:

    L-01 looks good and chocolately. Ok, the fried chicken, part. Really? I can’t get too excited about deep fried chicken, no matter who makes it.

    We order usually a gourmet cake for our Christmas Eve meal. Here’s a very popular gourmet bakery –pastry chef is born and trained southern Germany. He is married to an Asian woman. They run 2 outlets. https://www.thomashaas.com/pages/collection-cakestarts.php Interestingly, this bakery and Ganache Patiserrie (in downtown Vancouver), are very popular with local Asian-Canadians.

    My take: https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/romanticizing-the-best-asian-craze-for-european-desserts/

    We buy the cake because it is partially in memory of his mother, who was formally trained in fine German pastry baking. She loved making her multi-layered tortes on weekends and for Christmas (including cookies). This region of Germany takes upon the French pastry making fine techniques.

    Enjoy your Christmas in Japan…before Canada. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Those cakes look absolutely amazing… I would have jumped on that pistachio one. I wish cakes and cheesecake here were more exciting (flavorwise)…. So many bakeries with pretty cakes, but none of them are very different in texture or intensity of flavor.

      I’ll definitely drop by the shop when I get to Canada! Thanks for telling me about it. 🙂

      Checking out your post now.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Lori L MacLaughlin says:

    That caramel tart is making me drool. Yum. And I love fried chicken, even though it’s decidedly unhealthy. Once in a while can’t hurt, though, can it?

    I like that the Christmas holiday time in Japan isn’t so commercialized. Some places here didn’t even wait for Halloween before they started putting up their Christmas decorations and such. I prefer the focus to be on the real reasons for the season: the birth of Christ for those who are religious, and love of family and fellow man and peace on earth for those who are not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I’m not a huge fan of fried chicken since I had it so much as a child, but once in a while, it can be really tasty. Cold winter nights are one of those times. 🙂

      I really do love that it’s not overly commercialized over here, either. Christmas presents stop happening once the children stop believing in Santa––my adult students can’t believe that I ‘must’ buy presents for friends and older family members, too, every year, haha.

      Thanks for stopping by, Lori!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Rawls E. Fantasy says:

    #7 Cake looks DELICIOUS! I vote for that.
    The dinner options all look good, so I’m not sure which one to pick.
    The option A O-sechi looks fabulous! Wish I could try it. I vote for that. 🙂
    I’m sorry to hear this is your last year in Japan, it’s such a beautiful place… Where will you move to next?

    Liked by 1 person

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