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What is " Kagami-biraki"? Is there a meaning or rules?

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

What are the customs and foods of " Koshogatsu " in Japan?

Have you ever seen Kagami-mochi ( literally, "mirror rice cake" in Japanese), which Japanese people decorate their altars and alcoves with during the New Year holidays? Kagami-mochi is round rice cakes stacked in two tiers displayed during the New Year's holidays. On January 11th, people have a custom of "Kagami-biraki," or Opening the mochi and eating the crushed pieces. There is also a fire festival to burn New Year's ornaments, and a custom called " Koshogatsu," in which people eat red bean gruel, warm soup, and other unique foods is held on the 15th in many parts of Japan. This article will introduce these two events and the foods associated with them. Table of Contents 1. Basic knowledge about rice cakes 2. What is Kagami-biraki? The correct answer is "to open," not "break"! 3. What is "Koshogatsu"? Its meaning, customs, and foods 4. Summary 1. Basic knowledge about rice cakes

Japanese rice cakes are made from sticky glutinous rice(mochi rice) steamed and pounded until it becomes smooth. Mochi is made from glutinous rice, which is different from the "Uruchi rice" that Japanese people regularly eat for rice. In the mochi making, they pound the sticky rice with steaming hot and then finish ponding; they hurriedly form it into the desired shape. Mochi becomes hard when it cools down and can be stored. Freshly made soft rice cakes are enjoyed, seasoned with bean paste, soy sauce, or soybean flour mixed with sugar.

Mochi is an essential food for celebrations, not only at New Year's but also at various festivals and annual events. Neighbors and relatives are used to gather to pound mochi and share the rice cakes during festivities and ceremonies. Mochi comes in different shapes and flavors and is eaten for seasonal celebrations.

2. What is Kagami-biraki? The correct answer is "to open," not "break"!

Kagami-mochi is round rice cakes stacked in two tiers displayed during the New Year's holiday. Kagami-mochi comes in various sizes, and the items used to decorate them vary from region to region and from house to house. The disk-shaped rice cake is made to look like an ancient mirror. In Japan, it has been believed since ancient times that deities reside in mirrors and that the New Year's deity welcomed at New Year's live in the Kagami-mochi. At the end of the New Year period, the rice cake in which the New Year's god resides is brought down from the altar, broken open, and eaten. Since rice cake pieces are hard, the Japanese use them in soups such as Oshiruko(sweet red bean soup) and Zo-ni(soup with mochi), or as Arare (rice crackers made by cutting or crushing mochi into small pieces, baking, or deep-frying them, and seasoning them. The name "Arare" also means "hail" in Japanese).

At Kagami-biraki(Ceremony of "Opening" Kagami-mochi), people eat rice cakes, which are believed to be inhabited by the gods, to share their power and wish good luck and good health for the year. "Cutting" Kagami-mochi with a knife is considered bad luck because it reminds us of "seppuku," the act of a samurai committing suicide in disgrace. So they started to use a wooden mallet to break them into small pieces and started using the word "Opening" instead. Since the Edo period, this samurai-style has spread to the general public and has taken root. In reality, you have to "break" the dry and hardened Kagami-mochi as shown in the photo, but the word "break" also has a negative feeling, so people began to say "open" to describe as th