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Symbolic New Year’s foods prepared from scratch

New Year was a special event. Every New Year’s—and I still do that myself. I invite people to have New Year’s dinner. But all the delicious food for New Year’s was prepared from scratch—sushi and then umani. Umani has usually chicken in it. It’s different from nishime…doesn’t have any protein like chicken, but umani does. Then we have fish, a big red fish for yorokobi or for celebration. Kuromame (black beans), cook the kuromame and we always had the fish roe. Kazunoko for plentiful children. I guess that’s what it was. Kuromame is mame ni kuraseru…eat kuromame and be very, very healthy. So you can work well. And let’s see. What else did we have?

I*: So there was symbolic meaning to all the food.

Yes, yes. The basic…and then of course the basic one in the morning is your rice soup. We called it ozoni with mochi in it and different prefectures have different ways of preparing. In Hiroshima because it has so many seafood, they usually use seafood into their soup. So we used to use clam. My mother had those canned clams and she’d use that for the base for the ozoni. Whereas some other would just use vegetable and some used chicken and so on. But that was…New Year’s was a big, big event for us every year.

* “I” indicates an interviewer (Akemi Kikumura Yano).


food Japanese food New Year Oshogatsu ozoni

Date: May 31, 2006

Location: Hawai‘i, US

Interviewer: Akemi Kikumura Yano

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Dr. Margaret Oda was born on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, in Wailea. A Nisei, her parents were Japanese immigrants from Hiroshima. Her father worked on a sugar cane farm where he eventually became the Wailea Milling Company’s vice president.

She received her Master’s degree in Mathematics at Michigan State University, and later her Doctorate of Education from the University of Hawai‘i at Manōa in 1977. She started her teaching career in 1951 rising to positions as vice principal and principal at several public elementary and high schools throughout Hawai‘i. Dr. Oda later served as Deputy Superintendent for the State of Hawai‘i Department of Education for three years and twice served as Honolulu District Superintendent in the 1980s. She remained in the administration realm of public education until her retirement in the late 1990s.

Dr. Oda is known for her philanthropic work in the field of education. She has served on community organization boards such as the Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation, Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy and Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. She is the past chair of the Museum's Hawai‘i Advisory Committee. Dr. Oda currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Japanese American National Museum. (April 6, 2007)

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