As the year began drawing to a close, Kiku was eager to see what natural markers were seen as described in the seasonal almanac*.
For the five-day ‘ko’ beginning on the 16th December, the Chinese characters in the almanac indicated that a specific kind of fish was expected to be ‘flocking together’.
Boss Panda explained that when the almanac came from China, it would have indicated a fish such as a Chinese river perch, but that as this would not relate to Japan, it was one of the observations adjusted to suit the Japanese environment. Therefore it was now largely understood as ‘salmon swarm’. (鱖魚群/ さけのうをむらがる or sakenou o muragaru)
Boss Panda continued, “In some parts of Japan including Tokyo, a traditional year-end gift to present to someone used to be a salted salmon. During the first few days of a New Year, specific dishes are eaten, known as Osechi Ryori_(お節料), and each dish has a specific meaning or significance. It used to be taboo to cook on New Year’s day and so a large amount of preserved food was prepared beforehand, with salting being a common method of preserving.”