unique to ... ～に特有の
bamboo stem 竹の筒状になっている部分
Beth: How do you celebrate the New Year in Japan?
Aiko: We make the first visit to a shrine or a temple, and enjoy zoni and osechi dishes.
B: Are they special cuisine?
A: Zoni is a soup with mochi rice cakes, meat, vegetables and others. Osechi is our traditional New Year dishes arranged in jubako, or multilayered boxes. It’s prepared so that we don’t have to cook for at least the first three days. Most of the ingredients of osechi have auspicious meanings.
B: Like what?
A: For example, kinton is cooked sweet potatoes that have been put through a sieve and mixed with chestnuts. It’s considered a lucky dish because its yellow color reminds us of money. And kelp is called “kobu” in Japanese. We associate it with another Japanese word, “yorokobu,” which means “to become happy.”
B: That’s interesting. Do you have any New Year decorations unique to Japan?
A: Yes, we display kadomatsu and shimekazari at the entrance. Kadomatsu consists of three bamboo stems, pine branches and other decorations. They symbolize longevity and prosperity. Shimekazari is a twisted straw rope with fern leaves and other lucky items. These are arranged to welcome a deity of good harvest called Toshigami. Also, we offer kagamimochi, two-tiered round mochi rice cakes, to the deity.
B: Rice cakes are not only for eating. What do they represent?
(The Yomiuri Shinbunより）