December in Tokyo Brings Cool Weather and Warm Lights

Japanese traditional New Year’s Foods
Photo courtesy of Just One Cookbook

Tokyo really knows how to end the year in style. December in Japan’s capital is a magical time full of good food, family gatherings, and mesmerizing display of lights. It’s the time of serious shopping and But that’s just the beginning of everything that the city can offer you during this time.

Photo courtesy of Time Out Japan

Although we often associate December with winter, in Japan, the month still lingers with a cool and dry autumn. Christmas isn’t actually a public holiday in Japan, and instead is more like a second Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to see why: in December, Tokyo’s public spaces brilliantly illuminated by thousands of LED lights, turning the city into a fairy tale version of romantic dreamland.

Photo courtesy of Savor Japan.

Still Tokyo also has a Christmas-like spirit/festive mood/holiday spirit around this time with ice skating and holiday temple events as well as oshogatsu period (starting December 28 and lasting to around January 5) a time to visit family. Foodies will love osechi ryori, the traditional Japanese New Year foods that date back to the eighth century. These dishes include an assortment such as black soybeans, fish cake, red sea bream, and other delicacies. December in Tokyo is a time that you won’t forget easily.

Shibuya Blue Grotto. Thousands of blue LED lights turn the streets from Yoyogi Park to Koen Dori into a 800-meter cave. The event runs til December 31
Photo by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/AFLO

Ozoni : A Traditional Soup to Eat On New Year’s Day

4 dried shiitake mushrooms

4 cups chicken stock

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces

4 oz. daikon radish, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick on the bias

1 carrot, sliced 1/4″ thick on the bias

4 oz. kamaboko (Japanese fish cake), sliced 1/4″ thick

1 cup spinach, stems trimmed

1 tbsp. sake

1 tsp. soy sauce

Kosher salt, to taste

4 kiri mochi (glutinous rice cakes), 1″ x 2″, about 1/2″ thick

Mitsuba or parsley sprigs, for garnish

Place shiitakes in a bowl. Bring 1 cup stock to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan and pour over shiitakes; let sit until softened, 4-6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shiitakes to another bowl and discard stems. Pour stock back into pan, discarding any dirt or sediment.

Add remaining stock and the chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; add daikon and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Add reserved shiitakes, the sliced fish cake, spinach, sake, soy sauce, and salt; cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Keep soup warm.

Heat oven to 425°. Place glutinous rice cakes directly on an oven rack; bake, turning as needed, until browned in spots and puffed, 6-8 minutes. Divide rice cakes between 4 bowls and ladle soup over top; garnish with mitsuba sprigs. Serve hot.

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