What is a Kagami mochi decoration? A Japanese New Year tradition

During the end of the year and New Year’s holidays, you’ll see two donut-shaped objects with an orange on the top of it. What is this snowman-like object?

2017-05-11 Kumo   Culture, Foods & Drinks,

kagamimochi


【 CONTENTS 】

During the end of the year and New Year’s holidays, you’ll see two donut-shaped objects with an orange on the top of it. What is this snowman-like object?

Kagami Mochi Rice Cakes

kagamimochi
Kagami mochi is used as a traditional Japanese new year’s decoration. It is usually made up of two layers of donut-shaped mocha topped with an orange. In Japan, there is an old belief that the deity who gave you life comes on New Year ’s Day and brings us good fortune.

What do they signify?

kagamimochi
Kagami mochi with various kinds of decorations

It is often said that its shape resembles a bronze mirror which was considered a treasure by the ancient Japanese. It is believed that by double decking such noble items, your fortune will also double. The orange on top is called dai-dai and it is supposed to give hope and prosperity to the following descendants.

Kagami mocha is usually decorated with noshi decorative Japanese paper, ferns, and dried kelp. However, decorations vary from region to region and family to family. Please find the unique Kagami Mochi in your neighborhood!

Where do we place the decoration?

According to Japan’s Kagami Mochi Association, placing Kagami mochi in many areas of your house is recommended. Each location such as the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom have a corresponding deity.

A Variety of Kagami mochi sold at a supermarket.
A Variety of Kagami mochi sold at a supermarket.

You can find different sizes ranging from extra-large to small Kagami mochi everywhere in Japan. Japanese supermarkets sell Kagami mochi decoration sets during December. Here is a you tube link showing how to properly assemble the decorations.

How do we eat Kagami Mochi?

It is also believed that God’s power resides in Kagami mochi. To obtain the power of God for the New Year, people cook it with soup creating Ozōni and Oshiruko.

Ozōni is miso soup or soy sauce soup with mochi.
Ozōni is miso soup or soy sauce soup with mochi.
Oshiruko is sweet red bean soup with mochi.
Oshiruko is sweet red bean soup with mochi.

When preparing the Kagami-mochi for the soup, we don’t use knives to cut the rice-cakes, but break them with wooden hammers. We call this procedure, Kagami biraki. It depends on the location, but usually “Kagami-biraki” is held on January 11th.

In modern society, a more convenient style of Kagami mochi is popular. The two layers of mochi are packed in plastic to prevent spoilage. Moreover, a Kagami mochi shaped plastic package holds pieces of small mochi as an advanced style.

Mochi Recipe

How is mochi rice cake traditionally made?
Kadomatsu gate, the other decoration of the Japanese New Year’s holiday

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AUTHOR

miho mayeda

miho mayeda

Writer

I politely introduce my beloved country of Japan in my beloved Japanese language. I am an artisan with words, and will give my body and soul to the end. I am a freelance editor and writer who was born and raised in Tokyo.