This two-tiered lunch box contains a variety of food that is referred to as osechi-ryōri. The container is known as a jūbako, or tiered or stacked lunch box; it is made of red lacquer and features a winter-themed design of orange plum blossoms, pine branches, gold bamboo leaves, and green bamboo stalks. Together, these plants are known as the "Three Friends of Winter" and represent perseverance and unyielding because they thrive and bloom despite harsh winter weather. The interior of the box is black, and the bottom tier has corner legs.
Osechi-ryōri is a traditional dish prepared for the New Year, dating as far back as the Heian period (794-1185). Osechi-ryōri include a variety of food, each with a symbolic meaning. Osechi-ryōri are prepared in advance because of an original taboo against cooking during the first three days of the New Year. Tiers of osechi-ryōri can also be purchased at major department stores and even in a 7/11 convenience store. Prices vary, as do food selections. The New Year is a time when family comes together, and the osechi-ryōri therefore have positive, celebratory associations.
The box includes the following types of food, from the top left corner and going clockwise: In the top tier [image 2/7]: chestnuts (symbolizing financial success); black soybeans ("mame," the word for "bean," is a homonym for the word meaning "health"); kobumaki (sliced fish wrapped in konbu seaweed and boiled); kamaboko fishcake (whose colors allude to the rising sun); herring roe (symbolizing fertility); sardines (symbolizing an abundant harvest); mackeral skin; shrimp (symbolizing longevity); lotus root slices; and grilled sea bream (symbolizing auspicious fortune).
In the bottom tier [image 3/7]: daikon radish and carrot kohako-namasu (type of tsukemono, or pickle, representing "red and white," the happy and celebratory colors of Japan); gobo fish (symbolizing a long, stable life); yams and carrot slices in the shape of sakura (cherry blossom); salmon roe in a yuzu citrus shell (symbolizing fertility); datemaki (rolled sweet egg custard, similar to the more common tamagoyaki but with added fish or shrimp paste, symbolizing sunny days); bamboo shoots carved like a tortoise (a symbol of longevity); shitake mushrooms (symbolizing longevity); kikuka kabu, or chrysanthemum-shaped pickled baby turnip (the chrysanthemum symbolizes the emperor and marks a joyous occasion); lotus root slices; and preserved fruit.