Oshogatsu of the Past

Well, another year has come and gone in what seemed like a blur in time. Partly due to that
theory of relativity – since I’m down to that last 3rd of my personal movie with the credits
waiting to appear in the wings, every year seems to be progressing a lot faster… Though I think
a lot of it had to do with probably the worst election year that I’ve ever experienced where the
country now seems to be regressing to a point in time that we never want to go back to even if
it means I’ll be young forever…

Anyway, there’s a time in the past that’s still welcome and is still ingrained in my memory
banks like it just occurred last year. Those celebrations in the past of welcoming in the New

The Anticipation on the 31st

The last day of the year was a bigger event than New Year’s Day for the Tatsumoto’s as our
family always hosted a New Year’s Eve party celebrating first with Mom’s co-workers at Kahaluu
Elementary School and Dad’s University of Hawaii football tailgate gang. Of course, as the
evening wore on, my homies from high school and newer friends from the University of Hawaii
would show up to end their year at the Tatsumoto abode.

And along with and array of sake and Champagne, a constant for these celebrations was Mrs.
Takamiya’s local style Scotch eggs with boiled eggs wrapped with teriyaki meat and her konbu
maki stuffed with shoyu pork, carrots and gobo, Mrs. Oshiro’s futomaki (Mom always requested
her sushi as the Tatsumoto sushi filling was never centered), Obaachan’s hot crab salad and
Mom’s kazunoko and chicken hekka.
What the heck is hekka? Hekka is one of those dishes that seems to have purely island roots. It’s
basically a sukiyaki that’s uses ingredients that can be found in the 50th. I mean we have our
own tofu (though we’re now down to just two producers), watercress, green and round onions
are grown locally and we can even find takenoko in our own backyard. And though locally
raised poultry just started a recent resurgence, there are many “Jidori” chickens roaming wildly
through many suburban neighborhoods. But it’s one of those dishes that always found its way
to the Tatsumoto dining table on every 31st…
Chicken Hekka

¾ cup shoyu
¼ cup water
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup mirin
Salt to taste
MSG to taste (optional)

1 lb chicken, thinly sliced
1 cup onion, sliced
1 cup bamboo shoots, sliced
1 block tofu, cubed
1 bunch watercress, cut to 1 & ½ to 2 inch length
1 bunch green onion, cut to 1 & ½ to 2 inch length
½ cup dried shiitake, rehydrated and thinly sliced
1 cup konnyaku, either noodles or thinly sliced

Combine the sauce ingredients in an electric work or skillet and set on medium heat. Once the
sugar melts arrange the rest of the solid ingredients except the greens in the wok/skillet and
keep on a light simmer just until the chicken is cooked. Once the chicken is cooked add the
watercress and green onions and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes.

The First of the Year

Though the Tatsumoto’s didn’t follow very many Oshogatsu traditions, one of Dad’s rules was
that ozoni had to be the first thing you consumed in the New Year. Which is why until this
day, New Year ’s Day is the one day I don’t drink any coffee upon arising as I first have to finish
my ozoni as the first meal of the New Year. And by the time I’m done consuming several bowls
of ozoni with several mochi in each bowl along with untold bowls of kuromame, along with
sushi and sashimi I’m literally too full for even a small cup of java.

However, with New Year’s day celebrations of the past, Auntie Corinne always felt she received
the short end of the stick since the Lee’s always hosted the family New Year’s day party and it
seemed that most of the younger generation simply wanted to sleep off the “excesses” of the
previous night so her cooler full of beer remained full for most of the day. But once that initial
shock (along with rehydration) of the previous night’s excesses cleared, I always found space to
indulge in Auntie Itamura’s fried noodles, kim chi and mochiko chicken along with Auntie
Corinne’s macaroni salad made exclusively for me (she always made a separate container labeled
with my name since I didn’t care for celery way back when)… along with a beer or two. Of
course, the family New Year’s table was also covered sushi, sashimi and a large snapper, usually a
whole onaga simmered in shoyu, ginger, sugar, sake and mirin with the braising liquid served
with somen since there “had” to be some type of red colored fish served on the 1st day of the
year for good luck.

My Current Table

On the evening before the New Year, I’ll have a bowl of toshi-koshi soba to “break” any of the
bad luck of the past year (and believe me, both 2015 and 2016 haven’t been great years by any
stretch of the imagination), then have my obligatory o-toso or sake infused with medicinal
herbs just at the stroke of midnight.
On the following morning, my Oshogatsu table still has a few of the basics; a pot of ozoni (go
to my blog site for basic instructions: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?
onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1;src=postname), some homemade kuromame along with
sushi and sashimi. I’ll also sample a nice bottle of daiginjo sake as well as a nice bottle of
Champagne, probably with a fair amount of iced water to replenish fluids lost the previous
evening. I stopped consuming kazunoko or shishamo on the 1st as anyone past the half-century
mark shouldn’t be fruitful over the subsequent year (including Sir Mick) as well as lobster or
shrimp as it’s not about the number of years of life that matters but the life in those years we
are blessed with. And especially in the Year of the Rooster, I hope that all of us in this country
comes to its senses and realizes that we’re in it for the long hall, that it’s not Red vs Blue,
privileged vs the masses, gay vs straight, this religion vs that religion but that there is just one
group, us, all Americans that need to move forward. So once again, I hope the Year of the
Rooster brings all of you health, happiness and peace of mind. Shinmen Akemashite Omedetou