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New Year's aromas


A Shiga Kenjinkai meeting in Peru on August 14, 1959. In the row of people sitting from left to right, the third is my grandmother, then Messrs. Makino and Katsuragi, in a dark coat my grandfather, Messrs. Miyazaki and Hayashi, my uncle and sitting under my grandfather my cousin Yumi Hayashi who provided the photo.

My grandparents, Tatsuzo and Kinu Wakabayashi, natives of Hikone- shi and Shigaken , arrived in the city of Lima through yobiyose , or called by another immigrant, established at the beginning of the 20th century. They had six children, my father Francisco Tatsuo, the eldest, and five daughters: Aiko, Laura Fusako, Isabel Shizuko, Rosa Sueko and Luisa Toshiko.

According to the custom of Japanese immigrants, my father and his sister were sent to study in Japan, returning to Peru alone, already an adult like Kirai nisei, that is, feeling more Japanese than Peruvian. My other aunts were educated at the Lima Japanese School located in the Jesús María district.

What I miss from my childhood and adolescence is the oshogatsu , or New Year's, celebration at my house. A great event. Every first day of the New Year was spent with preparations, hectic shopping in the Japanese grocery stores in the crowded streets surrounding the central market of Lima. Ingredients such as konnyaku , similar to a gum made from a tuber; kamaboko, a fish cake with bright red dye; kombu , a dried seaweed nori , seaweed processed into sheets; kampyo , a dried pumpkin shavings; kyuri , a small, crunchy Japanese cucumber; mochi, a glutinous rice cake; aburague, a fried tofu; soba , thin, long noodles; azuki , red beans and local products such as mamé or beans, river shrimp, daikon , or turnip, among others.

On December 31 we had dinner with the usual menu, except for the dark sobá in tsuyú , a light broth, to ensure longevity during the year that began. Next, my mother, Eiko Aida, together with my aunt, began to prepare the stews throughout the night; the only one of the entire year in which they stayed up late not partying but cooking.

Early on January 1, the table was filled with exquisite red mamé and black mamé for health and prosperity, makizushi of the originals of yesteryear, without strange fusions; baked turkey, kombu -laced kuchitoris , sekihan , the quintessential holiday red steamed rice, and red shrimp with huge tongs like no other; and we began a sumptuous first meal of the year by uncorking a champagne and offering to the hotokesama , or small altar, to protect Buddhist symbols and make the general toast in glasses that were used only on that occasion, once a year.

An ozoni , or soup based on chicken broth with aburague and mochi , with Kansai seasoning, opened the succulent breakfast, and then the whole family, with the Oyichan in life, parents, aunt and us, the three brothers, We helped ourselves to all the delicacies prepared by these two endearing people who, without a doubt, would have slept very little.

My dad would then go out to the traditional reception offered by the Japanese Ambassador at his residence to greet the members of the Japanese colony in general and from there he would leave to visit family and friends, in a fixed and unaltered list, composed through the houses of about seven friends and five relatives.

In each of them, he was served with dishes similar to those we left at our house to serve the same friends he visited, and I remember his comments, that in Don Kishiro Hayashi's house there was kazunoko or flying fish eggs, orange-red and crunchy, brought from Japan, without a doubt, a delicacy that I have not tried yet.

Globalization was still far away and whiskey was a very expensive item of desire, and brands that today are normal category were offered to visitors as if it were an 18-year-old liquor. Every year, my mother and my aunt grew older and the same thing happened with the ladies of the friends' families with whom we shared the round-trip visits, and so one year, for some reason that I do not remember, they decided, by consensus, not to make the traditional visiting tour. The following year, the strenuous tradition was no longer carried out, and thus that indelible memory came to an end.

© 2022 Arturo Wakabayashi

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Each article submitted to this Nikkei Chronicles special series was eligible for selection as the community favorite. Thank you to everyone who voted!

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families food New Year Oshogatsu Peru
About this series

The theme of the 11th edition of Nikkei Chronicles—Itadakimasu 3! Nikkei Food, Family, and Community—takes a look at several questions, such as: How does the food you eat connect your Nikkei community? What kinds of Nikkei recipes have been passed down from generation to generation? What is your favorite Japanese and/or Nikkei dish? 

Discover Nikkei solicited stories related to Nikkei food from May to September 2022. Voting closed on October 31, 2022. We received 15 stories (8 English; 1 Japanese; 6 Spanish; and 1 Portuguese) from Brazil, Canada, Peru, and the United States, with one submitted in multiple languages.

An editorial committee chose a favorite story in each language. In addition, a Nima-kai favorite was determined by online community voting. Here are the selections!

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About the Author

Arturo Wakabayashi is a civil engineer. He is a third generation Nikkei, born in Lima. Paternal grandparents are immigrants from Shigaken , and maternal grandparents are immigrants from Yamagataken .

Last updated September 2022

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