In Japan New Year’s food is called osechi-ryori and is, traditionally, prepared before midnight on December 31 and enjoyed until January 3.
This food typically comes in special stacked boxes called jūbako.
Kazunoko (herring roe) – tiny yellow fish eggs. Kazunoko have a bite or crunch to them, however, the eggs are not loose. They are marinated in a broth of dashi, sake and soy sauce.
Kuromame (black beans) are soft and sweet, although you may notice a bit of soy sauce flavoring.
Gomame (also known as tazukuri) are small sardines that have been dried and then finished in a sweet sauce of sugar, mirin, soy sauce and sake.
Kombumaki are umami-rich kombu rolled tightly and bound shut with a ribbon of gourd strip (kampyo). Often kombumaki are stuffed with salmon. This is also cooked slowly in dashi, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce.
Datemaki looks like the tamago-yaki (egg custard) you often find in a bento box, but here it’s made with a fish paste and has a sponge-like texture. It is sweet also.
Sweet potatoes and chestnuts are the base of kurikinton, which can look sorta like yellow mashed potatoes.
Kamaboko, a dense cake of fish paste, is red and white (traditional New Year’s colors).
Another red-and-white food you’ll find is called namasu, typically daikon and carrots pickled in vinegar.
For vegetables, look for gobo (burdock root), often dressed with sesame. Also lotus root, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and pea pods.
Konnyaku (devil’s-tongue starch) and fu (wheat gluten) will also be sprinkled throughout the stacked boxes.
For seafood, shrimp (representing long life) and sea bream (for auspicious fortune) are typical.