Rice cakes New Year (kagami mochi)


Rice Cakes for the New Year (kagami mochi)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: New Year
***** Category: Humanity


These rice cakes play an important role during the New Year celebrations in Japan. There are a few kigo with them.

"Honorable Mirror" , revered mirror, o kagami 御鏡
..... 餅鏡 もちいかがみ
armor-plate rice cak., gusoku mochi 具足餅
armor rice cake, yoroi mochi 鎧餅

decoration rice cakes, kazari mochi 飾り餅

rice cakes for strengthening the teeth
hagatame no mochi 歯固の餅 はがためのもち

..... hishi hanabira mochi, 菱葩餅

Click HERE to see some Photos !

. yoroi 鎧 armour, armor of a samurai .

- quote
Illustration of Mochi Dividing Ceremony - 御鏡開ノ図
Kagami-biraki refers to the New Year’s tradition of dividing up offered mochi and eating it.
The Edo Shogunate called this event 具足祝 Gusokuiwai (celebration of armors)
and offered rice cakes called gusoku mochi to a full suit of armor (gusoku).
Every year on January 11, the alcove of the Kuro Shoin drawing room would be decorated
with the 歯朶具足 "Fern Armor" worn by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and the first Shōgun of the Edo Shogunate,
swords, and other battle regalia, to which the gusoku mochi would be then offered.
Since Ieyasu wore this armor in victorious battle,
it was an extremely auspicious item for the Tokugawa household.
After eating his celebratory meal, the Shōgun would grant an audience
to the 譜代大名 Fudai Daimyō (those who served the Tokugawa household before it seized power)
and government officials then give them sake and mochi.
. source : Tokyo Metropolitan Library .


observance kigo for the New Year

Gusoku biraki 具足開 "opening the armour"
gusoku kagamimochi 具足鏡餅
gusoku kagami wari 具足鏡割
gusoku iwai 具足祝
busoku kagamibiraki 武具鏡開

This was celebrated in the samurai homes on the 12th day of the first lunar month.
Since it later became identical with the death anniversary of the third shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, it was relocated to January 11.

Iseebi no kagamibiraki ya gusokubitsu

cutting the ricecakes
and taking off the lobsters -
armour in the chest

Morikawa Kyoriku (Kyoroku) 森川許六



lobster-decoration, kazari-ebi, kazariebi
飾海老 (かざりえび)
decoration with a lobster
ebi kazaru 海老飾る(えびかざる)
Ise-ebi kazaru 伊勢海老飾る(いせえびかざる)
Kamakura-ebi kazaru 鎌倉海老飾る(かまくらえびかざる)

The samurai of Kamakura saw an auspicious connection with their armour (yoroi) and the back shell of the lobster.
They get the red color from the first sun at Futamigaura, in Ise, where the Gods reside.
First named by Kaibara Ekiken (1603-1714), because most catch comes from the Ise area.

. WASHOKU - Food Decorations .


Quote from the Wikipedia
Kagami mochi (鏡餅, Kagami mochi), literally mirror rice cake, is a traditional Japanese New Year decoration. It usually consists of two round mochi (rice cakes), the smaller placed atop the larger, and a mikan (a Japanese bitter orange) with an attached leaf on top.

Further to this, it may have a sheet of konbu and a skewer of dried persimmons under the mochi. It sits on a stand called a sanpō (三宝 sanpoo over a sheet called a shihōbeni (四方紅, shihoobeni), which is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following years.

Sheets of folded paper called gohei (御幣) folded into lightning shapes similar to those seen on sumo wrestler's belts are also attached.

The kagami mochi first appeared in the Muromachi period (14th-16th century). The name kagami ("mirror") is said to have originated from its resemblance to an old-fashioned kind of round bronze mirror, which also had a religious significance.
The reason for it is not clear. Explanations include mochi being a food for sunny days,the 'spirit' of the rice plant being found in the mochi, and the mochi being a food which gives strength (chikara mochi 力餅).

The two mochi discs are variously said to symbolize the going and coming years, the human heart, "yin" and "yang", or the moon and the sun. The "daidai 橙、代々", whose name means "generations", is said to symbolize the continuation of a family from generation to generation.

Traditionally the kagami mochi was placed in various locations throughout the house.
Nowadays it is usually placed in a household Shinto altar, kamidana 神棚. It has also been placed in the tokonoma 床の間, a small decorated alcove in the main room of the home.

Contemporary kagami mochi are often pre-moulded into the shape of stacked discs and sold in plastic packages in the supermarket. A mikan or a plastic imitation daidai are often substituted for the original daidai.
Fern (shida 歯朶)is also used for the decoration.

Variations in the shape of kagami mochi are also seen.In some regions, three layered kagami mochi are also used. The three layered kagami mochi are placed on the Buddhist house altar, butsudan 仏壇or on the kamidana. There is also a variant decoration called an okudokazari placed in the centre of the kitchen or by the window which has three layers of mochi.

It is traditionally broken and eaten in a Shinto ritual called kagamibiraki, kagami biraki (mirror opening 鏡開) on the second Saturday or Sunday of January. This is an important ritual in Japanese martial arts dojos.
It was first adopted into Japanese martial arts when Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, adopted it in 1884, and since then the practice has spread to aikido, karate and jujutsu studios.
When the mochi are cut in small pieces at kagami biraki, they are very hard and put into vegetable soup (zooni) or sween bean past broth (o shiruko お汁粉) for better digesting them.
Mochi themselves are neutral in taste and can be adjusted to any kind of tasty preparation.

. kamidana 神棚 "shelf for the Shinto Gods" .


All about Mochi, in Japanese


..... even the poor cooked pure boiled rice and pounded rice cake from pure glutinous rice for important meals. Pounded rice cakes (mochi), prepared by pounding steamed glutinous rice with a mortar and pestle, have been indispensable food items for Japanese ceremonial feasts. People thought that the essence — the sacred power of rice — was made purer by pounding, and mochi was believed to contain the "spirit of rice."

Naturally this was and is the most celebrated form of rice and therefore the most appropriate food for feasts. Thus, New Year’s day, the principal annual feast in Japan, sees mochi always consumed as a ceremonial food.

Read more:
Food of Japan, by Naomichi Ishige !!!!!


Worldwide use

Things found on the way

An Offering to the Mountain God

Fiste Shrine visit -
to our Mountain God
nobody comes

Gabi Greve 2004


Daruma san on a kagamimochi

Photos from Ishino san


taga muko zo shida ni mochi ou ushi no toshi

Whose bridegroom is he?
Driving an ox with ferned rice cake.
The year of the Ox!

Tr. Oseko

MORE - discussion about this hokku by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


kazari mochi hotoke no hiza o choto kariru

rice cake offerings--
on Buddha's lap
for just a little while


In this haiku, as Shinji Ogawa explains, someone "borrows" Buddha's lap to place the cakes upon... for a while.
I suppose that Issa left the cakes as offerings to the Buddha for about as long as he could stand it (just "a little while"), then ate them.

© Tr. David Lanoue

Related words

***** Pounding rice (mochi tsuki, mochitsuki) More details on this subject.

***** Fern (shida) Japan Farnkraut

***** New Year (shinnen, shin nen)

***** New Year's Soup (zooni)


***** . Roundness and Spirituality .





Gabi Greve - WKD said...

yoroi 鎧 armour, armor of a samurai
gusoku 具足 armour
..... kogusoku 小具足 smapp pieces of armour equipment (like facemask, forearm sleeves, thigh guards, shin guards, bear-fur boots

Details and haiku

Gabi Greve said...

Legend about chikara mochi 力餅 from Shimane 島根県
If people prepare chikara mochi 力餅 rice cakes to bring strenth, on day 20 of the New Year, they will all become strong in the coming year.