Monthly Archives: December 2013

Word of the Day #26 – Yoiotoshiwo! (End of the Year Greeting)



Today’s Word is: Yoiotoshiwo (良いお年を)

2013 is almost over. In Japanese, there are many kinds of end-of-the-year greetings. Some of them are really long and difficult to remember, but this is an easy and casual greeting you can memorize and use for friends!

“Yoiotoshiwo” is a short form of “Yoi otoshi wo omukae kudasai (良いお年をお迎えください).” It means “I wish you have a great New Year.”

The literal translation of the first part of the sentence is simply “good year,” so sometimes people get confused (even Japanese people do) whether it means to wish you have a great rest of the year, or wish you have a great new coming year. The correct answer is the latter. If you are in an informal conversation, it’s perfect to say “yoiotoshiwo,” but when in a more formal situation, make sure to use the complete sentence.

10 Ozōni Dishes from Different Areas of Japan

Zōni, or ozōni, is typical New Year dish consisting of mochi (rice cake) and various ingredients in soup broth. These ingredients can vary widely depending on areas in Japan. Here is a list of 10 local zōni styles!

1) Walnut Sauce Ozōni from Iwate Prefecture

Image source: Shikoku News


In Iwate Prefecture of northeastern Japan, particularly along the Sanriku Coast, a delicious meal is often described as “walnut-flavor” in its local dialect. Iwate is one of the major walnut producers in Japan, therefore it is natural for people in this area to incorporate walnut in their special New Year dish. Grilled mochi is served in soy-based soup first. Then you take the mochi out and dip it in walnut sauce to eat.


2) Salmon and Ikura Zōni from Niigata Prefecture

Image source: Mochiya


A traditional Niigata-style zōni is topped with salmon and ikura (salmon roes), the local staples of the area. Niigata is usually covered with heavy snow during winter time, so cooking salt-preserved salmon is not only done for celebrating New Year, but also an important preparation for passing winter.


3) Azuki (Red Bean) Zōni from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures

Image source: Shikoku News


Image source: Bei One



In Tottori and Shimane, two neighboring prefectures in Chugoku region of Japan, people prepare all kinds of zōni dishes. One of the unique zōni dishes served here are azuki zōni. Azuki is red bean that is often used as filling for traditional mochi desserts. Traditionally, the red bean soup for azuki zōni is not sweetened, but more households nowadays boil red bean with sugar to make sweet zōni. The mochi here is usually cut in a round shape.


4) Nagasaki Assorted Ingredients Zōni

Image source: Mirokuya


Nagasaki has always been a port city and a center of trade since the city’s foundation by the Portoguese in 16th century. Nagasaki’s zōni reflects such versatile nature of the area in that it contains a large variety of ingredients, usually more than 10 of them, including fresh seafood and wild game and vegetables from mountains.

Nagasaki zōni is famous for having lots of ingredients, such as daikon, chicken, kamaboko, dried sea cucumbers, shellfish, gingko, etc., but must-have ingredients that make a typical Nagasaki-style zōni are round mochi, Japanese amberjack, and toujinna (Nagasaki bokchoi).



Toujinna is a special type of bokchoi vegetable harvested in Nagasaki. It was first brought to the area by Chinese traders, and eventually the locals started growing it and turned it into its own kind only found in Nagasaki.


5) Zōni with Taro and White Miso from Kyoto Prefecture

Image source: Honda Miso


Kyoto is famous for its special miso made from rice malt called saikyo miso. A typical Kyoto-style zōni uses round mochi boiled in soup (as opposed to grilled mochi placed in soup) with taro roots and daikon radish, topped elegantly with shaved bonito fish flakes.


6) Kinako Flour Zōni from Nara Prefecture

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Image source: Asahi News  

Image source: Machiyado

Kinako is roasted soybean flour used in many Japanese desserts. In Nara prefecture, zōni is served in soup first, and then as the mochi gets soft, you take it out and cover it with sweetened kinako flour. This way you can enjoy sweet mochi separately from the soup. The soup usually consists of white miso with tofu, daikon radishes, carrots, and taro roots.


7) Mochi-less Zōni from Tokushima Prefecture

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Image source: Shikoku Broadcasting


This is an oddball, zōni in Tokushima area actually doesn’t have any mochi in it. Instead, Tokushima serves mochi-less “uchichigae zōni” with a pair of thick tofu slices stack in a cross shape on top of three taro roots. It is believed that when Emperor Antoku (reigned 1180-1185) fled from the imperial struggle and found a shelter in this area, the villagers cooked soybeans and taro for him. Then the Emperor told them to make soybeans into tofu, so they did, and since then people in Tokushima cooked the same dish to celebrate New Year.


8) Turnip Zōni from Fukui Prefecture

Image source: Mochiya



In Fukui prefecture, zōni is prepared with boiled turnips along with their green stalks. The broth can vary from household to household. Some people use white miso, and others use red miso. Turnips are called “kabu” in Japanese, which is the same pronunciation as “stock/reputation.” Therefore, using turnips is believed to have good luck on one’s future.


9) Anmochi Zōni from Kagawa Prefecture

Image source: ABC Cooking


The zōni from Kagawa prefecture is a combination of Kyoto zōni and Chugoku region’s red bean zōni. The mochi is filled with red bean inside, and cooked in miso soup. It seems odd to have a sweet mochi in salty soup, but it is actually pretty tasty. Before eating, a small amount of aonori (green laver) is topped on the mochi to complete the Kagawa-style zōni.


10) Soy Sauce-Based Zōni from Tokyo

Image source: Cookpad

Residents of Tokyo come from all over Japan, so zōni dishes cooked in Tokyo vary widely depending on households. However, traditional Edo-style zōni uses soy sauce-based soup made from bonito fish stock or dried sea cucumber stock. Typical ingredients to go with are chicken and komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach). It is simple, but sometimes the simplest things make a best meal.


There are many kinds of zōni out there, but no matter the type of zōni you make, it tastes the best when you enjoy it with your family and friends!

Japan Word of the Day #25 – Dasai (Tacky, Uncool, Lame)


Today’s Word is: Dasai (ダサい)

It is a sort of mean thing to say, but sometimes you have to be honest!
Dasai means tacky, uncool, unfashionable, and lame.

The term “dasai” started being used in 1970’s among young people.
No one knows how the term exactly emerged, but there are believed to be three possible origins:

1) “Inaka (田舎)” means countryside, and you can also read this kanji as “dasha.” The adjective form “dashai” became “dasai” at the end.

2) It is a short form of a longer phrase “datte Saitama dakara (だって埼玉だから),” meaning “because it’s Saitama.” Saitama has always been referred to as countryside and tacky in the view of Tokyo citizens.

3) It was first coined by bosouzoku (Japanese biker gangs).

Regardless, dasai is a common expression you are guaranteed to hear if you ever hang out with Japanese people, so it’s good to know!

By the way I stumbled upon these “dasaine” T-shirts while looking for images to use.
I thought it’s pretty funny!



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Image Source: Club T

Dolls Party 30 New Dollfies! Oh My Goddess Belldandy, Cyborg 009, Devilman, and More!


It’s time for another Dolls Party!
On December 22nd, Volks celebrated its 40th anniversary by hosting a joint festival that consists of Dolls Party 30Scale Model Frontier and Rail Expo.
New limited edition Super Dollfies and Dollfie Dreams are already up on Yahoo Japan Auction as usual. Check them out!

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Bento Friday: Santa Rilakkuma and Reindeer Korilakkuma



Happy Friday!
This is the last Friday bento before the Christmas Day.
Today we have a couple of adorable riceballs featuring Rilakkuma in Santa hat and Korilakkuma with reindeer antlers.

The Christmas items are pretty simple to make, according to the bento artist momo.



The red sausage is cut in half for the Santa hat. Then decorate it with a thin piece of sliced cheese. The top part is the scooped out of a block of cheese.



The reindeer antlers are made of smoked cheese. Cut it in the shape of antlers. Stick pasta in the antlers and the hat, and place them on Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma inarizushi!




Japan Word of the Day #24 – Depachika (this is where you find some of the greatest sweets)


Today’s Word is: Depachika (デパ地下)

Depachika is a combination word of “depāto (=Department Store)” and “chika (=basement, undergroudn).” In Japan, basement of department stores are usually dedicated to food products. However, don’t underestimate it just because it’s part of the mall. It is one of the most popular places for OL (office ladies) and housewives to go and buy trendy sweets.


Depachika sells all kind of food from sweets, pickles, specialty gifts, fresh produce, tea, coffee, etc. It’s been always a popular spot, but since around 2000, more and more trendy sweets shops start to be there, making depachika an unique market that appeals to female customers. The way they display their products are very pretty and clean too :)

Image source: Rakuten Blog, Depachika