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Favorite Japanese Holiday Foods

Anyone who has traveled to Japan, or eaten in an authentic Japanese restaurant knows that the Japanese enjoy a rich, diverse and carefully prepared cuisine. In a country with thousands of years of history and many different regions, each with their own style and specialty dishes, many dishes have long cultural significance. Like most people, the Japanese associate certain foods with family occasions, holidays or festivals. Here are a few special Japanese dishes that are associated with important days on the Japanese calendar.

Japanese New Year’s Favorite: Osechi Ryori

A traditional mix of Japanese New Year's foods called Osechi Ryori.

Oshogatsu (New Year) is the most significant day of the year in Japan. Celebrated on January 1 and usually extended a few days into the new year, Oshogatsu is a time to celebrate and contemplate the New Year. It’s a day when people usually return home to be with their families and gather at the shrines to greet the gods.

On New Year’s Eve, families prepare osechi ryori, a special meal that includes a variety of foods, including dishes like sweet rolled omelet, fish cake with salmon roe, candied sardines, daikon and carrot salad, smashed chestnut and sweet potato paste, and simmered chicken and vegetables. These are prepared in advance to avoid cooking during the first three days of the year according to custom, so they are often vinegared or sugared to keep during that period.

Springtime: Hinamatsuri and Chirashi Zushi

Chirashi sushi bowl

Chirashi

Hinamatsuri or Girl’s Day in Japan, is celebrated each year on March 3rd. It is one of several ancient annual celebrations that go back over a thousand years.  The day is dedicated to girl children and features the display of ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress and their royal court. Hinamatsuri celebrations feature their own traditional dishes with some variety based on the region of Japan. Sushi is usually part of the meal, as well as hishi-mochi, or diamond-shaped rice cakes colored in spring colors representing fertility and good health. as well as hamaguri-zushi which is a small rice ball wrapped in a thin omelet shell, giving it a clam-like shape. Chirashi-sushi is a collection of colorful sushi usually in colors of yellow, green, white and pink.

A Spring Ritual: Cherry Blossoms, Sakura Mochi, Onigiri and Miso

Sakuramochi, japanese confectionery wrapped in a preserved cherry on white background.

Hanami or Cherry blossom festival is one of the most popular holidays celebrated in Japan. The whole country stops work to enjoy and celebrate the blossoming of the cherry trees, called sakura. Most of the parks open their gates for families who hold their parties below the trees. The Hanami celebration includes preparing homemade foods, including onigiri (rice balls wrapped in seaweed), miso (bean paste) and sakura mochi (preserved cherry sweets). Bento meals may also accompany the family  as they picnic among the blossoming cherry trees. The meal may also be supplemented with sake or even a tea ceremony with special teaware and a blend of organically grown sakura, green and black teas.

And, then, there’s KFC for Christmas

In a country whose 99% of the population is non-Christian, the secular side of Western Christmas has been widely adopted and is celebrated with decorations and gift giving. American fried chicken icon, KFC, played a part in the popularization of Christmas. And now, each year, it seems locals can’t get enough of KFC chicken. “Kentucky for Christmas”, a 1974 marketing campaign in Japan introduced KFC, and a holiday tradition took off from there. Today on Christmas, the locals make long queues at KFC or even order in advance to escape the waiting time.

End the Year with Toshikoshi Soba

Japanese toshikoshi Soba noodle ramen in ceramic bowl, Japanese food

At the end of each year, Japanese make sure to have a meal of soba noodles in a dish called toshikoshi soba. The custom can be traced to the Edo period when it is believed to have started at one Buddhist temple that fed soba to poor people to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  Because noodles are easy to cut when chewing, a dish of soba noodles symbolizes the end to the hardships the Japanese people had to undergo as they labored all year round, and it let’s them start the New Year fresh.

To make toshikoshi soba, the soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour, are cooked with a blend of soy sauce, mirin and sugar, and then garnishing using onion. The mixture is then heated over a flame until the broth simmers. Once ready, it gets apportioned and served in bowls.

Japanese Pancakes: Enjoy Okonomiyaki Year Round

Japanese food okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a savory version of the Japanese pancake prepared using a variety of ingredients. The dish originated in Osaka but is now popular everywhere and enjoyed year round The term okonomiyaki in Japan means ‘grilled how you like it.’  While Okonomiyaki are enjoyed during matsuri, or festivals, they are popular year round. There are even restaurants that specialize in okonomiyaki where patrons can select and mix their own ingredients. Normally, okonomiyaki is prepared by blending flour, eggs, cabbage, pork belly slices or meat, and then decorated with a variety of toppings for an excellent flavor. Great chefs and homemakers all love to come up with new combinations and topping ideas for this versatile pancake which is also a great way to use up leftovers.

For Your Holiday Celebrations Enjoy Authentic Japanese Food with Osaka

WIth one of the biggest and most authentic Japanese food menus in Las Vegas, Osaka Japanese Bistro offers an extensive selection of Japanese dining for every taste and event. Whether you want to celebrate New Year’s with a late night sushi party or a birthday with a Teppanyaki feast, springtime with a fresh chirashi sushi bowl, or just enjoy the taste of homemade Japanese food like okonomiyaki or a steaming bowl of tasty chicken udon, stop by either of our locations open late in Las Vegas and Henderson and step into a festival of delicious food.

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Celebrate Chinese New Year in Las Vegas

Enjoy these 2017 Chinese New Year Activities in Vegas

What do you have planned to celebrate this year’s Chinese New Year? The Year of the Rooster New Year celebrations begin this year on January 28th and, as always, Las Vegas will be celebrating in style. Whether you live in Las Vegas or will be coming to town to celebrate with us, there will be lots of holiday excitement and activity, both on and off the Las Vegas Strip. Take a look at some of the Las Vegas events planned for this year’s Chinese New Year celebration.

Chinese New Year on Display

As usual, the Strip casinos provide extravagant displays for your enjoyment. Don’t miss the famous Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden with it’s Chinese New Year theme. There are plenty of chickens on display, of course, along with other themed decorations and all the beautiful plants and colors that characterize this iconic location. The Venetian also features holiday-themed floral and artistic displays at the Waterfall Atrium and Gardens as well as hosting lion and dragon dancers during the holiday weekend celebration.

The 2017 Chinese New Year Parade

The Las Vegas Spring Festival Parade celebrating Chinese New Year will take place on Saturday, January 28 at 11 AM in Downtown Las Vegas. This annual parade features colorful and creative floats that are constructed by different community groups in commemoration of the heritage of our many Asian communities. Organized each year by local Asian community groups and businesses, there is a full lineup of entertainment and activities at Downtown’s Container Park after the parade and continuing until 5 PM.

Lion Dancing at the LINQ

Traditional lion and dragon dancing is a staple of Chinese New Year. Performances are scheduled at various locations around Las Vegas. This year, among a number of locations, dancers will be seen at the LINQ Promenade on Friday evening, January 27 and from 1:30-9:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, January 28 and 29. These open air performances are free to the public.

Benefit Concert at the LINQ

The Sichuan Song and Dance Theater Company will perform at the LINQ Theatre on January from 2-4 in an exciting performance of traditional Chinese song and dance numbers. Tickets are available and proceeds benefit the local JD Miller Middle School.

Enjoy Japanese Sushi for Chinese New Year at Osaka Japanese Bistro

Hungry after all that parading, dancing and singing? Osaka Japanese Bistro is a great place to celebrate the New Year in Asian style with traditional sushi plates or delicious hot entrees from our teppanyaki grill.  We’re traditional too, as the first Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas.  In our original location, not far from the Strip, or at our popular Henderson location, enjoy dinner or make it a late night snack at our sushi bar, or even order meals or a sushi party platter to go! Our award winning cuisine features a huge menu of traditionally prepared sushi, along with a full menu of Japanese dishes. If you select the teppanyaki grill, watch our chef will prepare fresh dishes before your eyes. As a favorite spot for local Las Vegas celebrities and local citizens alike, no celebration of Asian culture in Las Vegas is complete without a visit to Osaka Japanese Bistro!

Valentines Day Dinner Date

Say Irashaimase! to Love this Valentine’s Day at Osaka Sushi

Valentine’s Day is a time of love and commitment, and nothing says “I love you” more than a night out on the town with dinner at Las Vegas’ premier sushi restaurant. Osaka of Las Vegas, located conveniently close to the strip, is the perfect place for your V-day getaway, with 3 different dining experiences to fit your tastes.

valentines day date night sushi dinner

Offering a sushi bar, teppanyaki grill, and traditional tatami room dining, couples will be pleased to find their appetite sated in many different ways. With our W. Sahara Ave. location conveniently located close to the strip and open until 2 a.m., Osaka makes for the perfect date night dining spot.

We at Osaka will serve you heart-shaped sushi for this special day, and nothing is better for your own heart than the anti-oxidant rich fish that our chefs prepare it with! Sushi is not only delicious, but also extremely healthy. High in omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute significantly to overall life expectancy, sushi is a much sought-after healthy choice for a filling meal. Fish is lean, often very low in calories with high-quality protein, and the seaweed (or nori) which wraps most sushi rolls is rich in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. All of that together makes Osaka sushi a healthy choice- one which can keep you and your loved one by each other’s sides to a ripe old age.

Remember, Valentine’s Day comes but once a year. Don’t miss out on the occasion to treat the man or woman in your life with a night to remember at Osaka Sushi of Las Vegas. For more information or to make your reservations, visit www.lasvegas-sushi.com or call us at (702)876-4988. From the staff here at Osaka Sushi, wareware wa sugu ni o ai shimashou (we’ll see you soon)!

Japanese Christmas

Have you ever wondered how people in Japan celebrate Christmas? Do Japanese people even celebrate Christmas? The answer is yes and no. Traditionally Christmas is a Christian holiday, since only about 1% of Japanese people are Christian, Christmas doesn’t really have much reason to be very popular in Japan. Despite this initial apparent conflict, the large commercial side of Christmas, including the exchange of gifts and  large intricately decorated Christmas Trees actually took on fairly quickly as a fun western tradition in which people promote happiness rather than religion.

While in western cultures, Traditional Christmas foods include baked goods such as turkey and ham, as well as an assortment of cakes, pies, and other regional delicacies; these foods were not commonly found in Japan, therefore an actual formal Christmas menu wasn’t really established. Despite this, we do find a few Japanese Christmas culinary traditions that have turned up throughout the years. Such as the Christmas Cake, which is basically a spongecake with whipped cream and strawberries typically served on Christmas. This became popular in the 50’s when refrigerators became a  common commodity, which make it easier for people to have access to and refrigerate Christmas cakes.

Another popular Japanese Christmas tradition is that of families sitting around the table  in order to partake in a traditional Fried Chicken dinner. What, what? yes you heard me right. Friend Chicken became very popular as a Christmas food in Japan in the 70’s thanks to a very well known American Friend Chicken chain, based in Kentucky. Yes, KFC’s very own Colonel Sanders in Santa Clause attire became very popular as the pinnacle of western Christmas Tradition.  A tradition that appears to continue to be very popular to this date, where approximately 33% of Adults in Japan still follow this tradition, of eating friend chicken for Christmas. Making Christmas day the most profitable day for KFC Japan with pre-orders being necessary to guarantee a basket of Kentucky Friend Chicken will grace the tables of Japanese Families on Christmas Day.

Which Brings me to another different in the way Christmas is celebrated in Japan, I use the word “families” loosely, because while families do celebrate Christmas and parties are often planned for children. There is a growing trend in Japan of categorizing Christmas as a day for young lovers to go out together on a romantic date. The beautiful Christmas decorations and lights around cities and shops make unique backdrop for young couples who wish to spend a romantic evening out.  An increase in media coverage has helped this growing trend establish Christmas as an official romantic holiday, not unlike Valentines day.

In truly unique Japanese fashion, I propose a twist to the traditional American Christmas. Instead of staying home for another family dinner of Baked Turkey and Mashed potatoes; how about taking out your loved ones to eat non traditional fried Japanese Tempura, or Share a mixed sushi Boat. Now that is a Japanese Tradition I would love to be a part of.