Clerisse Cornejo is a student at the University of Southern California. She comes from a mixed background (Japanese/Mexican), and is originally from Fontana, CA.
“Every New Year, this is pretty Japanese, but we eat sukiyaki so on the first day of the year we go to our Aunt’s house and our three aunts, my dad, and my grandma will get together in the kitchen and make sukiyaki together. Like traditionally speaking, it’s typical for the Japanese to eat sukiyaki only when it’s cold so usually during the winter time, but because we all live in California it’s still pretty warm out here even during the winter, so we just eat it on the first day of the New Year because that’s probably around the time of the year when it’s most cold in SoCal.”
Q: Would you say that your celebration is similar to other families?
“I’ve never met another Japanese family and got to know them that well to ask about their traditions, but I do think that for people whose families have immigrated from Japan that getting together and eating traditional dishes is still an important activity. There’s not a lot of traces of Japanese culture in American culture so I think it’s very important for Japanese families to get together and participate in their culture.”
Q: Is your recipe for sukiyaki standard?
“Yeah I think it’s pretty standard. There’s like generally the same kinds of ingredients that always go into sukiyaki and that usually includes some sort of beef or other meat, a variety of vegetables and often tofu. We usually eat it alongside rice balls.”
The informant gave a lot of detail as to when sukiyaki is usually eaten by Japanese people (around winter time). Upon further investigation I found that one of reasons for this winter celebration was that because after the introduction of Buddhism, the Japanese were forbidden to eat meat unless special circumstances applied. One of those special circumstances was the winter celebration of bonenkai, a party towards the end of the calendar year. The informant mentioned that her family celebrates on the New Year because it’s when California is cold, but she didn’t mention this special winter celebration, probably due to the fact that she might’ve not been aware it existed.