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Department stores around Japan have begun accepting reservations for traditional Japanese osechi cuisine for the upcoming New Year’s celebrations, this time adapting their products to meet the unique demands of the novel coronavirus era.

Some will sell osechi boxes whose contents are divided into small portions beforehand so as to reduce the risk of possible coronavirus infection.

Sogo & Seibu Co., a unit of Seven & i Holdings Co., will offer a product whose contents are placed in individual cups for sanitary purposes. A total of 50 items of both Japanese and Western cuisine are packed into two layers of osechi boxes. It is priced at ¥29,160.

J. Front Retailing Co. , which runs Daimaru and Matsuzakaya stores, will offer a variety of osechi products that can be sent to relatives living in regional areas and eaten by a small number of people.

While osechi is usually eaten at large family gatherings, the smaller products from the company are geared toward people who cannot attend such gatherings because of the pandemic. Prices range from around ¥10,000 to over ¥20,000.

“I think family members can enjoy the same osechi meals even while being far away,” a J. Front Retailing representative said.

Matsuya Co. is offering Western-inspired osechi so that customers can feel as if they are traveling overseas. One of its products includes Spanish cuisine, while another features sausages from around the world.

A Matsuya official said that “we want our customers to enjoy flavors of the world” even at a time when overseas trips are difficult due to travel restrictions in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Takashimaya Co. is selling osechi that comes with 10 year-end lottery tickets so that customers can hopefully spend the New Year holidays in a joyful mood. The product, priced at ¥32,400, will be sold exclusively online, with the tickets being sent separately.

Sales of osechi at department stores have been steadily rising in recent years, reflecting the declining number of households making such dishes by hand.

The department store operators are aiming for year-on-year sales growth of 5 to 10 percent, expecting a spike in online orders amid trends to stay home and avoid crowded places and close contact due to the pandemic.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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