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!
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!
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.