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Sure, you know that in Japan, Ne...

Posted Aug 26 2008 3:31pm

Sure, you know that in Japan, New Year’s is the big winter holiday. But did you know that osechi , a kind of fancy bento box, is a holiday tradition? Here are some examples:

osechi example 1

osechi example 2

osechi example 3

The cost, even to an American living in the Bay Area, is . . . surprising:

Just about every major department store and supermarket in Japan now stocks osechi ryori cuisine in December. Most stores offer osechi either as individual dishes or as sets, and many pass out elaborate catalogs to make the selection as easy as pulling out your wallet, which better be stuffed if you plan on ordering osechi as a set. . . . Price is determined by contents and the reputation of the wholesaler or restaurant which put it together. For example, a relatively unknown shop may whip up three 20 square centimeter boxes for ¥22,000 [= $200], whereas Kicho, a famous restaurant in Kyoto offers three circles of the same size for a hefty ¥196,000 [= $1800]. The rest of the sets, ranging anywhere from one to four tiers cost between ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 on average and most Isetan customers buy their ready-made osechi in this price range.

Osechi is another example of how holidays create a market for expensive difficult-to-make things . The Stone-Age predecessors of holidays helped support skilled artists, artisans, and craftsmen, the technological pioneers of the time.

Addendum: Bento boxes inspired the design of the IBM Thinkpad.

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