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What is Kagami Mochi? Explore the Meaning Behind It

Image of Kagamimochi

Hi everyone, welcome to my blog!

Today, I'm going to introduce you to Kagami mochi, a particular type of rice cake that's eaten during the New Year in Japan.

It's a traditional snack that's been around for centuries and has a special symbolism.

I'll explain the history and what that symbolism is.

So, let's get started!

If you want to check the contents of this article on YouTube,

please watch this video.

What is Kagami mochi?

You can often see Kagami mochi at New Year's in Japan.

Kagami mochi is a traditional Japanese New Year decoration that has been around for centuries.

It is composed of two rice cakes stacked on top of each other and decorated with Japanese citrus fruit

Anonymous image

What is the purpose of displaying Kagami mochi?

Can you answer this question properly?

Kagami mochi is a traditional Japanese New Year decoration offering rice cakes to the gods and Buddhists.

It is so familiar to the Japanese at New Year's that many people are surprisingly unaware of its significance.

When did the Japanese start eating Kagami mochi?

Kagami mochi already existed during the Heian period (794-1192).

The reason why we know this is because The Tale of Genji which was a famous novel during this period mentions the Kagami mochi.

It is not certain if Kagami mochi were in their current form at this time.

It is likely that the Kagami mochi we know, and love became commonplace after the Muromachi period (1336-1573) when alcoves were built in houses.

Samurai families used to display armor in their alcoves.

*Armor is a set of armor and helmet.

Kagami mochi was offered in front of the armor.

What is the historical origin of Kagami mochi?

Kagami mochi is a New Year's decoration in which glutinous rice cakes are offered to the gods and Buddha.

It is an offering to the Toshigami, the god of grain.

The name "Kagami mochi" comes from its resemblance to the shape of an old mirror.

In the old days, mirrors were round and made from bronze.

These mirrors were used in Shinto rituals.

Some people think that the mirror was made to resemble the three sacred objects.

In summary,

  • Yata no Kagami = Kagami mochi
  • Yasakani no Magatama = Orange
  • Amemurakumo no Tsurugi = Dried persimmon

When should Kagami mochi be displayed?

When should we decorate Kagami mochi?

There is no problem if you decorate it early.

However, December 28th is considered to be the best date.

This is because "eight" is considered an auspicious number in Japan.

On the other hand, there are also unlucky dates.

  • The number "9" on December 29th should be avoided because it is linked to "suffering"
  • December 31st is avoided as an "overnight decoration" and "overnight rice cake" because it is associated with funeral decorations and lacks sincerity

It is best to avoid the above dates.

However, some days may be considered auspicious depending on the region, calendar, or religion.

Kagami mochi post-disposal

Kagami mochi is offerings to the gods, so they should not be put down or eaten but left on display until the end of the pine season.

The period during which pine decorations are displayed is roughly the same as that during the New Year.

The pine decoration period is generally from New Year's Day to the 7th (or 15th).

After the pine decoration period is over, the Kagami mochi is taken down.

"Kagami biraki" is a ceremony in which the rice cakes are opened.

*Kagami biraki is an annual event in which the Kagami mochi offered to the gods and Buddha during the New Year is taken down and eaten.

 Kagami biraki Meaning and Rules

"Kagami" means "happiness" and "biraki" means "spreading out".

In other words, people pray for long-lasting happiness of the year.

It is taboo to use a knife during the Kagami biraki ritual.

This is because it reminds people of seppuku (ritual suicide).

Instead of using a knife, rice cakes are divided into bite-size pieces by hand or with a wooden mallet.

After New Year's, rice cakes are hard, dry, and cracked.

Therefore, it is generally eaten as

  • Shiruko
  • Zoni
  • Yakimochi

Incidentally, Kagamimochi and New Year's are a set of Kagami mochi.

The history of New Year's is also summarized in the following article.

Please read this article as well if you like.


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