Toshikoshi Soba: New Year Noodles for Long Life

Soba is one of Japan’s “soul foods,” as well as a beloved fast food for hundreds years in Japan.

In December, the year end period - called Shiwasu, is a really hectic time, so quick Soba is perfect comforting food to wrap up the year.

Soba noodles are also eaten at other occasions to celebrate a new start. When you move to a new apartment, new arrival to neighborhood is still greeted with a gift of soba, called Hikkoshi soba (moving-in soba). In early February, Setsubun - which marks the start of spring in Japan, soba is eaten to ensure that the upcoming year will be a good one.

Still, the most enduring soba tradition is Toshikoshi soba.

It is one of the oldest soba traditions from about 400 years ago. It is believed that eating soba on New Year’s Eve lets go of misfortunes of the year because soba noodles are easily cut. Also long soba noodles symbolize a long and healthy life and long bond within family.

The Japan Store offers authentic Japanese Soba at the food court on the lower ground level. Visit “Soba-ya” where you can find the freshest soba noodles made right in the kitchen by a skilled Soba artisan. Enjoy a bowl of hope and good wishes for a new year!

A Glass of Celebration: Sake with Gold Cherry Blossoms

Ever tried the sake with gold flakes? As in other Asian cultures, gold is appreciated as a symbol of wealth and fortune in Japan as well. Sake with gold flakes is used as a gift of celebration at ceremonious occasions such as wedding receptions, and festivals - and the New Year is no exception.

“Kikin”, a true brewed Sake with cherry blossom petal shaped gold flakes, is specially produced for special occasions. It is the perfect drink to make a New Year banquet more special, adding an air of luxury to the event.

Some people might come across the concern how drinking gold flakes may affect health. It is totally okay to ingest a little amount, and is not digested by the body.

Slowly tilt the bottle gently a few times so that gold flakes are mixed evenly before you pour. Be careful not shake it, as it will damage the quality.

It doesn’t only look good - the taste is amazing. Welcome the New Year with beautiful gold cherry blossoms blooming in a glass of sake.

Find your Own Way to Enjoy Mochi

At the end of year, Mochi Tsuki - a rice cake, is handmade to be eaten during the beginning of January. Boiled sticky rice is put into a wooden container and patted with water by one person while another hits it with a wooden mallet. It will become a sticky white dumpling before it turns into Mochi.

Mochi is used in a several ways to celebrate New Year in Japan. Firstly It is made into a New Year’s decoration called Kagami Mochi, which is two round cakes stuck together topped with mandarin orange. The color of mandarin orange in Japanese ”Daidai” stands for longevity for several generations and is considered as auspicious.

Secondly, Mochi is eaten as Ozoni - Miso soup with mochi, rice cakes and vegetables. The origin of Ozoni dates back to Muromachi period over 600 years ago. It was served as part of a full-course dinner and was important to Samurai. Now It is cooked at home with cut mochi available from supermarket during New Year season. There are many variations over the different regions of Japan.

Yaki Mochi - Grilled Mochi, is another way to cook cut mochi. You can bake it in either a frying pan or toaster oven at home. It gets crispy on the surface and develops a rich toasted flavor. The most common way is to eat Grilled Mochi is paired with soy sauce. Some people with a sweet tooth prefer to eat them with Anko - red sweet beans, or Kinako - soy powder with sugar. There are dozens of varieties to enjoy. You can try with many different sauces, cheese, bacon, garlic, or even fruit jam if you like it sweet.

Enjoy mochi in your own way and celebrate the New Year!

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