Experience Osechi Ryori — Japanese New Year’s Cuisine

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SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Japantown Foundation’s annual New Year’s fundraiser again offers guests a rare opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese New Year’s cuisine called osechi ryori.

The event takes place on Thursday, Jan. 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the West Bay Conference Center, 1290 Fillmore St., San Francisco.

An elaborate preparation and presentation that even many Japanese Americans don’t know about, osechi ryori is an array of dishes that each carry special symbolism, and is rarely experienced in the U.S. because of the skill and time needed to authentically serve the large selection of food.

For the past several years however, the San Francisco Japantown Foundation has presented osechi ryori as the centerpiece of its New Year’s celebration. This year’s event will include an impressive layout provided by the prestigious Japanese establishments like Sushi Ran, Sanraku, Delica, Tokyo Fish, Yamasho, Suruki, Mira and Nippon Ya. The sake is being sponsored by True Sake and Takara Sake, and the beer will flow freely, sponsored by Sapporo.

Osechi ryori is a style of cooking based on ancient methods of preserving food, such as curing in salt or vinegar, or simmering in sweetened soy sauce and sake. Grilled fish such as tai (sea bream) and buri (yellowtail) are exquisitely presented in addition to preserved vegetables.

All are prepared to be eaten at room temperature, and can be kept for several days without refrigeration. These morsels are tightly packed into exquisite lacquer boxes called jubako. In the original and classic fashion of small plates, osechi ryori offers tastings of a large variety of dishes, each with a definitive hold on every aspect of the flavor profile.

Care is taken to include lucky colors, such as brightly colored pink and white kamaboko (fish cakes) and kohaku namasu (red and white salad), as well foods with symbolic meaning such as kazunoko (herring roe, literally meaning “many children”), renkon, (lotus root, a Buddhist symbol) and sweet kuromame (black beans, again, for fertility), and tai (the last syllable of the word omedetai, meaning “celebratory”).

The event will include shishimai (lion dance) by San Francisco Taiko Dojo and mochitsuki by Kagami Kai.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata serve as honorary co-chairs.

Sponsors include Minami Tamaki LLP, Union Bank, Morgan Lewis and Joan Haratani, Mary Ishisaki, Ninomiya-Koda Foundation, along with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Kintetsu Enterprises Co. of America, Hatsuro and Amey Aizawa, Kimochi Inc., Paul Dion and Ann Tamaki, Nihonmachi Little Friends, and Kiroku Kato.

Proceeds will allow the Japantown Foundation to further its mission to support cultural, community and educational activities for San Francisco Japantown. It is dedicated to preserving and honoring Japantown’s history, to welcoming and serving its residents, visitors, businesses, congregations and community organizations, and to supporting the growth and development of the community’s Japanese cultural theme.

The event is organized by the San Francisco Japantown Foundation Board of Directors: Donald K. Tamaki (president), Hats Aizawa, Bob Hamaguchi, Richard Hashimoto, Mary Ishisaki, Keith Kamisugi, Diane Matsuda, Sandy Mori, Jon Osaki, Allen Okamoto, Jerry Ono and June-Ko Nakagawa.

Tickets are $175. RSVP by Friday, Jan. 4. Purchase tickets online at http://japantown2013.eventbrite.com/ or by contacting event manager Grace Keh at [email protected] or (415) 534-5010. Sponsorships are also available.

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