See this two-layered red box decorated with a lovely drawing? Well, this is an item that is currently on sale from major Japanese department store Mitsukoshi, and much to our surprise, the eye-catching illustration on the box is a work that was created nearly 90 years ago!

But as pretty as the drawing is, that’s not the best part about this product, because this isn’t just an ordinary box — it has a very specific use. The box is actually an osechi item that is sold with many types of special New Year’s food inside! (And they really do fill up the box with all sorts of colorful, interesting food, as we’ll show you in the pictures below.) What a stylish way to brighten your New Year’s meal!

Osechi food consists of different traditional food typically eaten during New Year’s, usually served in a layered box called oju or jubako. Many of the foods have symbolic meaning for prosperity or longevity (like the zoni soup containing pieces of stretchy mochi rice cake to wish for a long life stretching into the future). In the past, the idea was also to cook different foods that kept well during the New Year’s period, so that women wouldn’t have to cook over the holidays (although you could say it just meant a lot of extra cooking and preparing before New Year’s Day!). But osechi has, shall we say, adapted with the times, and nowadays, there are some unique and non-traditional variations available, such as Mickey or Winnie the Pooh osechi sets, or even a set featuring Disney’s Frozen!

And while it was typical for each home to cook its own osechi foods, it is now becoming more and more popular to order ready-made osechi sets from restaurants or department stores. Well, seeing how beautifully theses boxes of osechi are presented, we really can’t blame people for wanting to order them.

The osechi box we introduced above is just one of such department store-sold sets, but we have to say, the retro look of the illustration makes it awfully attractive. It’s an original set sold only by Mitsukoshi and features a drawing by the artist Hisui Sugiura, one of the earliest graphic designers in modern Japan.


The illustration, titled Aratama (literally, “new ball”), was used on the cover of the New Year’s edition of Mitsukoshi’s advertising journal in 1926 — yes, 88 years ago! It’s amazing how modern the colors and style of the woman in a kimono look, even today. Sugiura created numerous Western-style posters for Mitsukoshi, some with considerable art nouveau influences, and his work is thought to have had a huge impact on the Japanese public’s image of Mitsukoshi, which at that time was transforming itself from a dealer of traditional Japanese fabrics and clothing to a modern department store.

▼And this is what the box looks like opened,  with all the osechi food inside。

Isn’t the color and placement of the food artistic? And you can see we weren’t kidding when we said they really fill up the box with food! Some of the items that come in the box include plump simmered black soybeans from the Tamba/Sasayama area in Hyogo Prefecture and duck from Hungary braised in red wine made in Yamanashi Prefecture, so obviously it’s not all traditional Japanese fare.

▼This is another osechi box from Mitsukoshi featuring work by Sugiura, this one of three beautiful cranes, which are considered a lucky bird in Japan. This illustration too appeared on the cover of Mitsukoshi’s advertising journal in 1929. This box has just one layer and contains mostly Japanese-style items.


Enjoying all that carefully prepared osechi food in a beautiful box certainly sounds wonderful, but there is a slight catch. The two-layered box we first showed you above costs 48,600 yen (US$447) and the other one-layered box costs 43,200 yen ($397), so you have to be ready to seriously splurge on your New Year’s meal. Yes, although these are for an entire family, there’s no denying that some of the “designer” osechi boxes out there are extremely pricey.

Of course, there are much more reasonably priced osechi options available, but if you want to go all out for New Year’s Day then the Sugiura-illustrated osechi boxes are available on the Mitsukoshi Online Store here, for delivery on December 31. Oh, and Special osechi boxes are always popular, so they may even sell out!

Source: Mitsukoshi Online Store
Original article by: Yayoi Saginomiya © Pouch