Japanese New Year Celebration (Shogatsu or Oshogatsu) – Traditions, Customs and Facts

In Japan, New Year is the most important holidays. People will say “ake-mashite-omedetou-gozaimasu” (which means “Happy New Year”) to each other whenever they see at the first time in the New Year. The events are widely celebrated and enjoyed, most business are closed from 1st to 3rd January, excluding some retailers. Many people who have moved to big cities will return home during the holidays to be with family and friends. Since most businesses are closed on the first three days of the New Year, the streets tend to be very quiet except for those near temples and shrines.

Before the New year, the Japanese usually have bonenkai party which held among office colleagues and bosses. The word “bonenkai” means “forget-the-old-year party”. The party is meant to forget the unpleasant memories of the passing year as well as to welcome the New Year. At the party, bosses will usually tell all their stuff to be Breiko (means to forget their position and be impolite!).

Omisoka is the day of the New Year’s Eve and it is the second most important day of the year in Japan. The Japanese are very busy on omisoka because they need to do house cleaning (called osoji) in order to get rid of the dirty of the passing year. Everything has to be cleaned before the New Year day. The newly cleaned home is festooned with certain auspicious images such as kadomatsu and shimekazari. After cleaning, Japanese will have the largest dinner of the year.

At the very end of the day, usually around 11 pm, it is very common to have toshikoshiudon or toshikoshisoba, a kind of Japanese noodle. The long noodles are eaten to symbolize long life. Joya is the night of New Year’s Eve. Shortly before midnight, temples and shrines throughout Japan strike their huge bells 108 times, a precaution intended to drive away the previous year’s sins and ensuring a fresh new start.

Japanese New Year celebration (called shogatsu in Japanese) takes place from 1st to 3rd January, the first day of the New Year is called gantan and is a national day in Japan. Families usually gather to spend the days together. During shogatsu, people will eat special dishes called osechi ryori which is packed in a Jubako box and has several layers. Each dish has a particular meaning. For example, kuromame (sweet black beans) for health, prawns for long life, kurikinton (sweet chestnuts and mashed sweet potato) for happiness, tazukuri (terriyaki taste small sardines) for a good harvest, kazunuko (herring roe) for fertility, and so on. It is also traditional to eat mochi dishes (rice cake) during New Year’s holidays. The most popular mochi dish is zouni (rice cake soup). But of course the ingredients are vary depending on regions and families.

There is a custom of giving money to children during these holidays (it’s called otoshidama). It would be a good idea if you prepare some money in small decorative envelopes if you are going to family gatherings. On the first day of the New Year, Japanese people will usually visit a temple or shrine to pray for safety, good fortune and health. This first visit to a shrine or temple is called hatsumoude in Japanese (meaning ‘first visit’) and it is one of the most important rituals of the year.

Source by Susan Wong

What’s For Dinner? 30-Minute Menus For 2010 – 18th Edition

This is the 18th edition of the weekly 30-minute menus for 2010. These are published on a weekly basis; I like to develop the weekly menus on Thursday or Friday, grocery shop on Saturday, and start the week’s menus on Sunday.

Can you believe it is May? Where has the time gone? I am really enjoying being out-of-doors in the beautiful Atlanta weather. The menus this week reflect this feeling and are guaranteed to get you out of the kitchen and into the great outdoors pronto!

To celebrate May, I am hosting a brunch on Sunday – the Company Shrimp and Grits menu will be perfect. For the appetizer course, I will serve: Cheddar Cheese Balls; Summer Sausage with Roasted Garlic Mustard; Sliced Pears and Veg Tray with Spicy Tomato Salsa; Tortilla Chips and Savory Herb Crackers; Honey Roasted Almonds.

You will find that I use several cooking methods, mix and match, to get dinner on the table quickly! (The ingredients in parenthesis show some of my quick-prep steps.) You can always substitute your favorite made-from-scratch recipes when you have more time.

I hope you have a great week!

Sunday (brunch this week):

Company Shrimp and Grits with Smoky Gouda (cleaned and deveined shrimp, quick (not instant) grits, shredded Gouda)

Spinach Salad (bagged baby spinach, bottled blue cheese vinaigrette)

Croissants, Butter (prepared croissants)

Lemon Tart (prepared pie crust, lemon juice)


Ham and Cheddar Strata (Deli ham; purchased sourdough bread, bagged cheese)

Broccoli / Bell Pepper / Mushroom Medley

Toasted Pound Cake with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce (purchased pound cake, ice cream, and chocolate sauce; buy extra ice cream for Wednesday)


Chicken and Dumplings (crock pot; frozen dumplings or pastry sheets, cream of mushroom soup)

Asparagus / Tomato Stir Fry

Mixed Berry Stack (purchased puff pastry)


Tortellini Rustica with Fresh Vegetables (vegetarian; prepared tortellini, grated Parmesan cheese)

Three Pepper Salad (jarred Italian salad dressing)

Quick Tortoni and Seasonal Berries (purchased coconut macaroon cookies and ice cream, frozen whipped topping)


Mexican Beef and Cheese Soup (shredded cheese)

Tortillas with Guacamole Spread

Brownies (purchased brownies)


Tempura Shrimp (cleaned and deveined shrimp)

Udon Noodles with Soy Dressing (purchased noodles)

Steamed Julienne Vegetables (bagged julienned vegetables)

Fresh Fruit Baskets (extra puff pastry sheet from Tuesday, canned whipped cream)


BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (pre-cooked or canned chicken, bottled BBQ sauce)

Buns and Condiments (purchased buns, jarred condiments)

Potato Wedges

Cole Slaw (bagged slaw mix, jarred slaw dressing)

Fruit Pizza Cookies (purchased sugar cookie dough)

I sincerely hope you have fun with your meal planning and preparation,

Elizabeth Randall and Family

Source by Elizabeth Randall

SinKaya in Shibuya, Japan – "Sin" Is the Master’s Name, Completely Innocent and Pure

Manga writer, Japanese Matsuri, Delicious Yamanashi Houto Udon

We call him “Master” and that honorific describes him to a “T.” The owner at a restaurant in Japan is often referred to as “Master” or in Japanese pronunciation “Masuta-.”

Senpai Hint! When you are at a loss for how to address the guy in charge at a restaurant or bar in Japan, feel free to use “Masuta-.”

When Sin-san’s parents (originally from Yamanashi Prefecture) were ready to finish up with their restaurant in one of Shibuya’s most “Shibuya-like” areas, Sin-san was the angel who came in to save the day.

There are relics and icons all over the wood-based, warm restaurant. Kamen-rider figurines, professional wrestling masks, a shogi set from days long past.., these are little things Sin holds dear. Sin is also what we would refer to as a “Nippon Danji”, basically a “Man’s Man” in Japan. The aura of his Samurai roots are evident in his straight posture, the smooth confidence in his dialogue and the focus you observe as he works behind the counter. There were several aspects of this evening and in Sin-san that I consider some of the reasons people around the world adore Japan.

First, Sin-san is one of those guys who wears a traditional coat and outfit to hold the portable and highly prized shrines for Shibuya’s annual September Matsuri. Sin is the Matsuri leader and organizes a group of 200 all dressed in their ocean blue, insignia festooned jackets. They hold up 14 different shrines and parade the streets of Shibuya, making it even more meaningful and exciting than usual… if that is even possible.

Second, Sin-san himself is a magnet for interesting people and his knowledge on the whole Shibuya area is vast. If you can find his restaurant SinKaya on the second floor of the SG building right up the street off Dogenzaka after passing under the bright red Torii emblazoned with the words “Hyakkendana.”

Direction tip: Let’s say you have the Scramble Crossing at your back. If you look around you will see Shibuya’s super famous shopping building “109” at the fork of two roads. Take the one on the left. Walk up with Hooters on your right and TOHO Cinema on your left. Soon you will come upon the big red Torii on your right. Turn right and walk under the Torii up the street past the perfumery on your left and you will see a building on the corner. It looks old and it is hard to find the entrance… but that is SG building. The address is 2-17-3 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043 (there is no marking in English for SinKaya, but if you look up to the second floor you should see the Heineken sign). Go Go Go! You can find it!

We were there for about one hour and we learned about some great clubs and hot spots nearby and then, out of the blue, we met and had a lively conversation with a popular Manga writer. This writer specializes in the Bakumatsu theme (Ruroni Kenshin and Shinsengumi might be close to what she does) and she is one of Sin’s many friends. Many regular customers at SinKaya are part of the underpinnings to Japan’s pop culture.

Third, it is the only place in Tokyo you can eat authentic homemade Houtou Udon noodles. As you know, Yamanashi prefecture is located at the foot of Mt. Fuji and the frigid Winters taught people of old how to survive with the warm broth and sweetly boiled vegetables in this Udon delicacy. Sin-san actually pounds out home-made noodles once every two days, leaves them just a bit to emphasize the body of the noodle, and then places them in the delectable Yamanashi specialty soup to complete the Houtou dish.

I am a huge fan of the Chronicles of Narnia books and this dish made me imagine what a Japanese Edmund would consider a delectable “Turkish Delight” in Yamanashi.

Sin-san is himself a vegetarian so most of his menu is friendly to non-meat eaters and though local Japanese may think of Yamanashi as just an hour ride outside of Tokyo… it is a bigger challenge to get there for we internationals.

Plus… just down the street you have Shibuya’s infamous “Scramble Crossing”, a myriad of clubs and shopping, one of the most interesting “pink” areas around and a bunch of entertainment hotels to goggle at. Yep, this is Shibuya in its truest, purest form. Join Sin-san at SinKaya and learn the ins and outs of Pure Shibuya from ground zero.

Source by Ruth Jarman Shiraishi

Popular Japanese Dishes

The Japanese are known to love their food and this can be seen by the number of takeaway and restaurants that have become well established and cooking programmes on TV are now showing more far eastern cuisine dishes.

The West has now embraced Japanese cuisine and seafood is a popular dish served at many restaurants, even takeaway Japanese has become popular. Many Japanese restaurants and takeaways are fast popping up across the UK. Chinatown in London is diverse with Japanese restaurants. These restaurants provide the ultimate experience in Japanese dining.

Here are some popular Japanese dishes:

Sashimi and sushi

Many people don’t realise that these two dishes are more or less the same. Sashimi is a dish that is comprised of raw fish thinly sliced that is served with a spicy Japanese horseradish known as wasabi where sushi is also thinly sliced raw fish but served with vinegared rice. Norimaki or sushi roll where the filling is rolled in rice is also a well known Japanese dish. Sushi is available in many supermarkets as pre-packaged dishes and many people now go to sushi bars where customers can sit at a counter and choose what they want to eat by choosing the dishes from a moving conveyor belt.


Domburimo are dishes that consist of a bowl of rice which are covered with a variety of toppings including boiled beef, chicken, egg, deep-fried shrimp or deep fried pork and egg. These are popular takeaway dishes ordered and are complimented well by additional dishes including miso soup and pickles.


Perhaps the most well known dish in Japanese cuisine, Tempura is a simple but delicious dish. Tempura is a light batter and seafood and vegetables are dipped in this batter then deep fried, the end result is delicious and crispy food which is served with a dipping sauce. Tempura is best served with a side bowl of rice and soup or on a bowl of rice (tendon) or noodles (tempura udon, tempura soba).


Suriyaki is a savoury stew dish of vegetables and beef. The choice of vegetables used is usually green onions, shiitake mushrooms with the addition of tofu and gelatinous noodles. All these ingredients are cooked together in a sauce made of soy sauce, sugar and sweet cooking sake.


Translated yakitori means broiled chicken. Chicken is threaded onto skewers and cooked over a hot charcoal grill. Yakitori is good as a starter and more of a snack food before your main course. For vegetarians an assortment of vegetables including green bell peppers and onions can be used. Once the yakitori is cooked it is served with a tangy sauce to compliment it making it mouth watering and delicious.

These are just some of the popular dishes available at Japanese takeaways. The next time you want to order takeaway why not call your local Japanese delivery restaurant and enjoy some mouth watering and tasty Japanese food.

Source by Perry Manku

Types of Healty Pasta – The Healthiest Type of Pasta Noodles

Pasta has become a family tradition for many generations now. Whether it’s a simple weekend family dinner to special occasions among family and friends, its presence can never be ignored. Lots of pasta recipes have been invented, introduced and tested, making them versatile enough to use. Though basically made from flour and water, healthy pasta is the main concern here. It’s the kind of flour that is used that makes the big difference. There are healthy pasta that can be incorporated in our diet if we want to go healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle without giving up on it. They contain lots of fiber and are delectable too.

Types of healthy pasta:

Whole wheat pasta – made from whole wheat flour, high in fiber with different texture and flavor than the conventional white pasta. Contains more fiber and proteins than semolina (white pasta). The bleaching process on white pasta takes away most of the nutrients and vitamins and since whole wheat pasta doesn’t undergo this process, nutrients and vitamins are retained. A real healthy option that is readily available in the supermarkets. They come in different shapes and sizes. The most common of which is the whole wheat spaghetti. Products from Japan like the Udon noodles and Ramen noodles, are all made from wheat. They are heavier so they can make one easily full for longer time.

Buckwheat Pasta – this comes from a fruit called achene and looks like a sunflower seed. The white, starchy endosperm is what is turned into buckwheat flour. The green or tan coating of the seed makes it dark in color. They are very good for soups, as in Soba noodles and very popular in Japan and Korea and northern part of Italy. They are great for creamy pasta, very tasty, high in fiber and rich in protein. People with coeliac disease can be safe with buckwheat pasta because it is gluten-free.

Spelt Pasta – a distant relative o wheat it contains carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals and has nutty flavor. Unlike buckwheat pasta, it contains gluten so it is not recommended for people with coeliac disease. It is readily available in health food stores and specialty shops but can be home-made too with the use of spelt flour. A very healthy alternative to white pasta.

Brown Rice Pasta – may have an unusual texture but tastes so much like rice. This is free of cholesterol, gluten and wheat. It is rich in fiber, high in protein, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidant. It also can go very well with some vegetables like beans and tomatoes and it is very filling and tastes real good.

There are still several grains that can be turned into a healthy pasta just like quinoa, couscous, and other vegetables like moringa, spinach, squash, carrot, soy beans and zucchini that can be mixed with them to have the healthiest pasta product, the vegetable noodles. It’s just a matter of experimenting and being creative so one can satisfy his health requirements to maintain a healthy lifestyle for the rest of his life.

Source by Marichu Coning

Japanese Eating Etiquette: Rules You Didn’t Know

When it comes to eating etiquette, the Japanese are not a particularly fussy people, but, unless you want to draw disapproving looks while dining in Japan, take a look at these seven rules of Japanese eating:

1. Make noise while you eat–especially noodles (soba or udon).

A noisy eater is enjoying the food more, according to the Japanese. If you want to show how much you’re savoring a bowl of udon, slurp and smack to your heart’s content. On the contrary, if you take care to eat quietly, your attempt at politeness is seen as a failure on the part of your Japanese host–he failed to offer you tasty food that you can enjoy.

2. No donut dunking–don’t dip anything in your beverage.

Japanese don’t dunk cookies, donuts, or anything else in their nomimono (beverages), from a sense that the dipped item (cookie, donut, etc.) is soiling the beverage with crumbs.

3. No tipping in Japan.

Tipping is virtually unheard of in Japan. At a typical Japanese restaurant, if you leave a tip on the table, your server is likely to call out to you as you leave, saying “o-kyakusama, o-wasuremono desu yo!” (“Sir, you forgot this!”) If you want to insist on the server keeping it as a tip, reply with, “chippu desu kara, o-uketori kudasai.” (“It’s a tip, so please accept it.”)

On the other hand, bell hops and other employees at large Western hotels in Japan have grown accustomed to tip-toting Westerners. They don’t expect a tip for service, but neither are they likely to decline a proffered tip.

4. Don’t eat on the street–unless it’s an ice cream cone.

This custom is slowly changing in Japan, but most Japanese still avoid eating while standing or walking on the street or waiting at a train station. The sole exception is an ice cream cone, called sofuto kuriimu (“soft cream”) in Japanese. You are free to enjoy an ice cream cone on the street, but most Japanese still frown on ice-cream eating inside train stations.

After you board a Japanese train, the rules are just as strict: eating or drinking is a faux pas on most Japanese trains (the shinkansen bullet train is an exception). However, as plastic bottles (“petto botoru“) have been popular, more young Japanese be seen taking sips from a bottle of ocha (green tea) that they keep concealed in a tote bag.

5. Place your chopsticks down carefully.

When you have finished a Japanese meal, there is etiquette involved in how to place your used chopsticks. If you have a chopstick rest (“hashi-oki“), rest your chopsticks in it. If there is no chopstick rest available, place the chopsticks across your bowl, again side by side with no space in between. If they won’t span the bowl, let the used ends rest inside the bowl, but try to keep the two chopsticks nestled together.

The point is to avoid separating the two chopsticks. Never stab your chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice–this is the way rice is offered to the spirit of a deceased person, so Japanese consider it the worst offense in chopstick etiquette.

6. Use a napkin only if you must.

Japanese are frugal with napkins. At many Japanese restaurants, the only “napkin” is the disposable hand towel you receive when first seated for the meal. Finer restaurants may offer a cloth napkin, but the large paper napkins found in most American eateries are rare in Japan.

7. Drink soup directly from the bowl.

Japanese soups, such as miso-shiru, are properly eaten by raising the bowl to your mouth and drinking from the bowl. While you hold the soup bowl with one hand, you can use your chopsticks to stir the liquid or pick up tofu or other ingredients. The rim along the bottom of Japanese bowls (“chawan“) is designed for holding; it keeps the hot contents away from your fingers and allows you to hold the bowl with just one hand.

Source by Terry C Phillips