【WINTER】A quick guide to ‘kagami mochi’, the Japanese New Year traditional decoration

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


The Kagami Mochi and its meaning.

kagamimochi

Kagami mochi is used as a traditional Japanese new year’s decoration. It is usually made up of two layers of donut-shaped mochi (rice cake) topped with a mandarin.

‘Kagami’ means ‘mirror’ in Japanese, and 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 mandarin on top is called dai-dai and it is supposed to give hope and prosperity to the following descendants.

Kagami mochi is usually decorated with decorative Japanese paper, ferns, and dried kelp. However, decorations vary from region to region and family to family.

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 the kami’s power resides in kagami mochi. To obtain the power of these deities during the New Year, people cook it with soup called 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, Japanese people don’t use knives to cut the rice-cakes, but break them with wooden hammers. This procedure is called,”kagami biraki” (“opening the mirror”).. It depends on the location, but usually “kagami-biraki” is held on January 11th.

Nowadays, when you buy it at the supermarket, the two layers of mochi are packed in plastic to prevent spoilage.

More Mochi and New Year related articles

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

Omisoka and Oshogatsu: The Japanese Year End and New Year’s holidays

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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.