New Year's Eve
I had my traditional New Year’s dinner on Monday, January 2, 2017. I ate the traditional “osechiriori,” special holiday foods: three or four different kinds of “kamaboko” (fish paste), chestnut paste, and “ozoni,” a soup featuring spinach, sliced sweet potatoes, tofu, mushrooms, and a large chunk of “mochi” rice paste. After that I had some delicious fried meat mixed with boiled noodles, and for dessert I nibbled on nuts, cheese, and “osenbei” rice crackers. There were four kinds of alcohol, plus tea, juice and soft drinks. I don’t drink alcohol, but a person has to have something in his hand to pronounce the toast, “kampai!” When I first arrived in Japan I couldn’t eat any of this my first time. These days, though, I practically gobble it down. I did almost gag on the chestnut paste, but that was because of the texture of it more than the taste of it. The “kamaboko” fish paste cakes are mostly tasteless and have the consistency of rubber, so I always jokingly call them “keshigomu,” “erasers,” because eating them is like chewing on an eraser. “Mochi” is extremely glutinous. It takes a lot of chewing. It can be dangerous, too, because it is so sticky. Every year a number of people - usually elderly - choke to death on “mochi” because they ate too much and swallowed too soon. (Doing so is supposed to be an arbiter of robust health in the New Year.) Already, on January 2nd, the television news reported two deaths of elderly men due to choking on “mochi.”
I can eat the special holiday food, but I don’t like it. This year I kept fantasizing about leaving to return to my own apartment and fixing up some peanut butter toast for myself. Happy New Year!