Three tableware adorning the New Year’s Day Welcoming the New Year with Japanese craft
Hello, I’m Manami from the SUNCHI editorial desk.
Now December is here. For grown-ups, a year passes so fast. I guess I always say “only a month left” in these last few years.
Unlike the childhood simply looking forward “zoni” or the rice cake soup and “otoshidama” or New Year’s gift, things are hectic at the year end and the beginning of the New Year for adults. We will write the greeting cards, do the thorough cleaning at home and office, make courtesy visits, make “Osechi” or New Year’s special dish and prepare “toshikoshi soba noodle”. While being pressed with time I will find myself excited to do these for the better coming year. At the time of looking back this year and thinking about the coming year, I would like to take Japanese craft works into life.
I will introduce the tableware indispensable for Japanese New Year’s Day.
#1 The tiered food boxes of “Hida Shunkei Lacqure”
Speaking of New Year’s dish, it means “Osechi”. It originally referred to the food cooked for the parties held in the Court and the seasonal festivals. Since the most important day among those was the New Year’s Day, Osechi started to be packed in “jubako”, the tiered food boxes wishing for happy events being repeated and later it was used to refer to the New Year’s dish.
As it shows osechi and jubako boxes are inseparable. Usually jubako boxes which are originally designed for the special day are decorated with colorful paintings and tend to be used only once a year. So, I looked for the ones for the special and daily use both.
Hida Shunkei Lacquer made in Hidatakayama in Gifu prefecture has about 400 years’ history and is designated as the Japanese traditional craft. Also, it’s known as one of the three beautiful Shunkei Lacquers along with Noshiro Shunkei and Awano Shunkei. It’s applied with very transparent lacquer called “Shunkei urushi” lacquer over the colored wood base. Taking advantage of beautiful wood grain through the transparent lacquer characterizes Shunkei Lacquer.
Shunkei Lacquer which is solid and sturdy from repetitive lacquering and polishing work will grow into lustrous amber color with long use. It is lifelike.
#2 “Ikkanbari jitsugetsuwan” of Yamanaka Lacquer
Do you have any tableware of your dream? This jitsugetsuwan is one of my dream tableware. As the name shows, this masterpiece expresses the sun and the moon by the gold and the silver leaf. The bold pattern is impressive. This is one of the most famous bowls which was made in collaboration with the artist Rosanjin Kitaoji and the master lacquerer Sekisai Tsuji the 2nd of Yamanaka Lacquer in Kaga prefecture.
Rosanjin is known as an epicurean and a model for the character “Yuzan Kaibara” in the manga “Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine”. The tableware by Rosanjin, who left the words “Tableware is a dress for food”, was created on his value that the charm will be brought out first when it contains food, they said.
This ikkanbari jitsugetsuwan is made by “Ikkanbari” method of putting washi paper with lacquer. It is being made by the present Sekisai Tsuji in the exact same shape on the same procedure as the second did.
It has a delicate touch to the mouth for its thinness. I was lost in admiration of the genuine handwork. One day, I wish I could have the rice cake soup with this on the annual special day.
#3 The grill net with ceramic tray of Kyo kanaami
What we can’t spare for the New Year’s Day is zoni along with osechi. Zoni, the hot dish of puffed up rice cake made in each local recipe is the taste of the New Year’s Day that anyone from child to the elderly loves.
By the way, how do you bake the rice cake? In a pan or toaster oven? Or maybe on a space heater in the northern district? Nowadays there seems the way to cook it like freshly pounded in the microwave oven. But I think the true flavor is baked one with burn. So, I will introduce the grill net that the rice cake will be cooked well.
It’s said that the grill net, the traditional craft of Kyoto can trace back to Heian period in 8-12 century. The beautiful grill net which adds a touch to dishes has been made in Kyoto where tofu or bean curd food is popular. It is made manually one by one using the traditional method inherited in Kyoto.
By the effect of far-infrared rays from the ceramic, bread and vegetable will be cooked to perfection as well as the rice cake.
This “welcoming the New Year with Japanese craft” having started from the cleaning items will be continued to the New Year’s decoration.
The tiered food boxes of Hida Shunkei Lacquer (飛騨春慶製造直売 有限会社戸沢漆器)
Ikkanbari Jitsugetsuwan bowl of Yamanaka Lacquer (北大路魯山人漆器の萬有庵)
Written and photographed by Manami Inoue