Japanese New Year Bento

japanese new year sheep bento

Happy New Year!!!  Our family has an abundance of new year traditions since we celebrate both Japanese New Year (January 1) and Chinese New Year (varies by the lunar calendar).  Which basically means we spend the first month and a half of every year decorating and eating to ensure good luck and long life.

We’re lucky enough to spend Japanese New Year with my in-laws, eating & skiing & playing cards.  My amazingly resourceful okasan still manages to cook a traditional Japanese New Year feast from scratch with whatever ingredients she can find up in the Colorado mountains.  For example, her kuromame is made from Mexican black beans instead of soybeans!  We start on New Year’s Eve with a delicious bowl of soba.
Japanese New Year soba noodles

Then we wake up on New Year’s Day for a wonderful breakfast feast with:

  • Osechi Ryori – lacquerware boxes presenting foods which each have special meaning; including burdock root, lotus root, black beans, fish cake, seaweed. Our pine sprig garnish is real and freshly plucked from the front yard!
  • Ozouni – a steamy bowl of soup with savory sticky mochi (my favorite!) that needs to be eaten slowly to encourage enjoyment and prevent choking.  I had to cut the cherry blossom carrots with a paring knife instead of a cute tool so please excuse the asymmetry!

japanese new year osechi ryorijapanese new year ozouni

2015 will be the Year of the Sheep so I packed Teddy’s first bento lunch box of the new year with


(while still providing a healthy balance of starch, veg, protein, dairy & a little sweet treat)

  • Kadomatsu – Twin decorations of bamboo & pine placed by the front door to welcome prosperity & long life.  I made these from fish cake and green beans.  H/T to Naohaha’s Obento Plus.
  • Kagami mochi – An offering to the gods of sticky rice mounds topped with a clementine.  I used an orange bento pick and mini + regular marshmallows.
  • Daruma –  A wishing doll to focus on goals for the new year.  You paint one eye when you make a resolution, then paint the other when it comes true!  I cut some wax off a Babybel cheese, drew the face with a food safe pen, and decorated with gold Sharpie.  Can’t tell you what we wished for.  🙂
  • Sheep – This year’s zodiac animal is the gentle artistic sheep. This fluffy guy is made from a rice ball with a hotdog face and carrot horns.

japanese new year sheep bento

Best wishes to all for a year filled with good fortune and good eating!!!

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