Translated by Verity Lane
Toshikoshi Soba - Soba Noodles Eaten At New Year's
Toshikoshi Soba, or year-end noodles in English, refers to the buckwheat noodle dish eaten on New Year's Eve in Japan.
Written by MATCHA
Toshikoshi Soba, or "year-end noodles", refers to the buckwheat noodle dish eaten on the evening of December 31st (New Years eve). It is a traditional Japanese custom.
Why Is Soba Eaten on New Year's Eve?
The custom of eating soba on New Year's Eve started in Japan's Edo era (1603-1868). There are various theories as to why this has become a tradition. One suggests that its easy-to-cut properties, when compared to other types of Japanese noodles, is representative of cutting away any bad luck (yaku in Japanese) built up over the course of the year.
Other theories explain that soba is healthy, so eating it on this day is a good way to wish for good health in the new year. Also, the fact that soba noodles are long and thin is said to be representative of a long life, so it is customary to eat them in the hopes of leading a long life.
In the past, Japanese artisans used rolled up balls of soba flour to gather up scattered pieces of gold dust. This implies that eating soba will you give you the Midas touch, as you will essentially be able to gather up money.
When's the Perfect Time to Eat Soba on New Year's Day?
The most popular time to eat soba is late at night, just before ushering in the new year.
Having said that, there are customary time differences depending on the area or family, with some regions preferring to eat toshikoshi soba for dinner, and some preferring to eat it on New Year's Day.
As toshikoshi soba is said to cut away bad luck it is said to be bad luck to continue eating from New Year's Eve over into the early hours of New Year's Day. It is also said that having soba leftovers negatively affects your luck with money, so it might be a good idea to reduce your portion size if you're not feeling particularly hungry in the first place.
A traditional Japanese New Year's Eve is a far cry from the lively celebrations that involve fireworks and parties. However, listening to the midnight bell ("joya no kane" in Japanese) and eating soba with your family is a dignified and altogether heartwarming experience. Joya no kane is a Buddhist service that involves the temple bell being rung a total of 108 times to coincide with the number of worldly desires an average person experiences in their lifetime.
If you have the chance to spend New Year's Eve in a Japanese household, please do stay up and eat soba together.
For more information on other types of soba, refer to this article: Soba Noodles: Their Calorie Content, Ingredients And Where To Eat Them