2018 is about to end. Put your New Year's resolution on hold, there's a fun Japanese tradition that you could follow this year. People in Japan usually eat a special year-crossing noodles called Toshikoshi Soba. The Soba can be eaten cold or hot be it in a soup or only with a dipping sauce. There are plenty of toppings, such as tempura. No toppings at all is okay as well.
History of the Year-end Noodles
As one of Japan's unique New Year's custom, the tradition of eating Toshikoshi Soba on New Year's Eve has started as far back as during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) whereby one Buddhist temple in Japan gave out Soba to the poor on New Year. Another come about is that Goldsmiths from the Edo period (1603-1867) would use soba dumplings to clean and collect gold dust from their factory floors on the last day of the year. The Japanese then started eating Toshikoshi soba to collect money since gold meant money to the Chinese.
The tradition continued and Toshikoshi Soba was chosen as the New Year's noodles in the Edo era. The custom turned into a tradition for people all over Japan even until today! Toshikoshi Soba is not always the chosen one, though. Some areas have different customs, as others are eating fuku soba, kure soba, jyumyo soba, misoka soba, tsugomori soba or unki soba instead.
Symbolism of eating Toshikoshi Soba on NYE
There's a reason why the delicious buckwheat noodles are enjoyed directly on New Year's Eve in Japan. Some say the long soba noodles symbolises longevity. Indeed, the buckwheat plant can thrive in severe weather conditions during the growth period therefore, represents resilience and strength.
This Japanese traditional noodle dish is a joy to eat on New Year's Eve as they are easy to be cut. Hence, they see it as a means to let go of the regrets and hardships encountered during that year.
The Japanese face stressful times during “Shiwasu” (the year-end period) since there are many things to do, from Thanksgiving to spring cleaning. So they prefer to celebrate New Year in a rather quiet style. While we like to party, drink and see spectacular fireworks during “Omisoka” (NYE in Japanese language), The Japanese like to spend the evening at home. They would do yearly reflection with their family and friends, or simply just watch TV.
But one thing for sure, eating Toshikoshi Soba is a must in most part of Japan. In fact, the word “Toshikoshi” literally means to jump or climb from the old year to the new year.
End your year special and memorable this year by eating the Toshikoshi Soba with your family and friends!