Osechi becomes Kosechi at Kura Sushi.

In Japan, part of the traditional New Year’s celebration is eating osechi, a lavish array of gourmet morsels, each with some sort of auspicious aspect to their name or appearance. Because of its gourmet nature, osechi tends to be difficult to cook yourself and expensive to buy pre-made, but classically minded foodies feel it’s worth the effort/investment to share such a special meal with your family.

But what if you don’t have plans to see your family, or anyone else, at New Year’s? Don’t worry, because conveyor belt sushi chain Kura Sushi (also known as Kurazushi) now has osechi for people who’ll be starting the new year off solo.

It’s called the Kosechi, or “Little Osechi,” set, and it’s a scaled-down osechi assortment for one. First off there’s a jumbo shrimp, which is supposed to grant you a long life, under the folk wisdom that you’ll grow old enough to one day have a back as bent as the curled-up shrimp’s. The two pieces of kamaboko fish cake are in red and white, which are considered a lucky, celebratory color combination in Japan.

The good wishes are at their most direct with the block of tofu bearing the kanji for kotobuki, or “happiness.” The remaining two pieces, stewed shiitake mushroom and kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), are less common members of the osechi cast, but in the case of shiitake, their status as a delicacy provides an atmosphere of beginning the year on a culinary high note. As for the kabocha, because the squash-like vegetable’s nutrients are said to be effective in preventing colds it’s traditionally eaten at the winter solstice, and sometimes slides its way into osechi a little over a week later. Plus the specific variety in the Kosechi set is called Ebisu kabocha, named after Ebisu, one of Japan’s Seven Gods of Fortune who bestows wealth and prosperity.

And obviously, if you’re hoping to start the new year off on the right foot, you’ll want to end your meal with dessert, and so Kura Sushi also has two special seasonal sweets. First is what appears to be kagami mochi, the stack of rice cakes topped with a mandarin orange that Japanese families set out as a New Year’s decoration. In reality, though, what Kura Sushi is offering is a confectionary made out of sweet bean paste with strawberry flavoring.

There’s also a sweet bean paste tiger, since Japan goes ahead and switches over to the next Chinese Zodiac animal in line on January 1.

The Kosechi is priced at 500 yen (US$4.35) and the desserts at 220 yen each, so eating all three shouldn’t blow your food budget for the year, and they’re all available as eat-in items at Kura Sushi branches starting December 27. And if it’s Christmas that you’re spending alone, don’t worry, Japan has a meal for that situation too.

Source: Press release
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