Tradition – Japan



English Pronunciation/Romaji:

Toshikoshi soba

Literal meaning:

Cross year soba eating



English Pronuncation/Romaji:


Literal meaning:

Conclude the meal with sob

The informant was born in Kanagawa, Japan, a bay area close to Tokyo. He grew up in Hawaii but still retains much of Japanese culture and traditions. One tradition the Japanese practice during New Year is to celebrate the incoming year with ‘soba’, buckwheat noodles. Since noodles are long, they represent longevity. Longevity of family, of marriage, of life and of happiness. Therefore the tradition is termed “Toshikoshi soba”, cross year soba eating.

The second phrase, ‘conclude the meal with soba’ is where the New Year Tradition also takes its roots. It is a phrase with a play on word soba which people associate with closing out the old year and starting a new one. In this case, using soba, or noodles also makes sense because noodles are ‘stringy’ threading together the past and the future.

If one examines this practice histo-geographically, one can see that other Asian cultures also has similar traditions. Perhaps this is a monogenesis phenemenon which originated from one single region a long time ago.