Ozoni, a soup with mochi as its main ingredient, was first served as a side dish to go with alcohol during banquets for samurai warriors during the Muromachi Era (1336 – 1573) to kick off the event. As such, it’s considered an auspicious dish, and later evolved to symbolise the start of a new year. Today, ozoni is prepared and eaten around Japan but its preparation varies greatly from region to region, or based on the family’s traditions.
Kanto Region: the soup, known as sumashi-jiru, is clear and light thanks to a base of bonito-based dashi, while the accompanying mochi is square-shaped and grilled or toasted before it’s added to the soup.
Kansai Region: the soup is made with white miso and a base of kombu dashi soup, and round mochi is usually preferred to symbolise the fact that everything comes full circle. The mochi, however, may be boiled or grilled.
Tottori Region: round mochi is used in an azuki red bean soup.
The ingredients added to the soup also differ from region to region. The people in Osaka, for instance, prefer a vegetarian-friendly version, adding grilled tofu, radish and carrots, while in Niigata Prefecture, which is known for their bitingly cold winter, a heartier dish is preferred, with salmon slices and salmon roe.