, a regular on the New York Times Crossword site, created a fascinating description of this holiday, and the foods related to it. (Martin is an extraordinary personality, and is married to a Japanese woman.) As you my have guessed, he is Jewish, which adds yet another layer of complexity to his views of Japanese society:
"New Year is a major holiday in Japan. Celebrated January 1-3 (the Japanese don’t use the Chinese lunar calendar), its essence is similar to that of our Thanksgiving. The three-day celebration is peppered with ancient rituals, superstitions and traditions that aim to insure a successful year ahead, and are layered in ways that point clearly to a thousand years with no way off the island. In fact, a cross between Thanksgiving and Yom Kippur may be an even more apt, if inscrutable, analog."
Here is Martin's description of his piece:
I imagine somewhere in Japan just about anything edible is celebratory. Here is a dossier on some of the dishes that most Japanese associate with New Years. I prepared it as a cheat sheet for a past gathering in California.
In Seattle I prepare at least thirty dishes for about 100 family and friends. Most of them are Japanese so I can't get away with anything.
In case you don't have Microsoft Word, you may find this pdf file easier to read:
I found this fascinating reading, an insight to Japanese culture that taught me a great deal.