Wednesday, January 11, 2006

kagami biraki

Today is "Kagami biraki" in Japan. Kagami = mirror, biraki = to open...Open the mirror. This marks the end of the New Years festivities. It is also the day when people take down the "Kagami mochi" (we didn't have one, so I surfed the internet for this) from their altars or tokonomas (alcove).

One large and one small round mochi (rice cake) are decoratively placed one on top of the other with a tangerine, fern leaf and a piece of white paper as an offering to the gods. The round rice cakes represent harmony and the name "kagami mochi" is said to have come from the round mirror used for Shinto rituals.

On the 11th of January, "Kagami biraki" is held. "Kagami biraki" is a ritual where the family shares the "kagami mochi" that was offered to the gods with prayers for harmony in the home. It is said that the samurai (Japanese warrior) family custom of eating rice cakes in hopes for a long life has spread among the general public. During "kagami biraki", the rice cakes are broken by hand or with a wooden hammer. The reason for this is because to "cut" it with a knife would symbolize "cutting ties" with the gods, family, etc. The broken mochi is then put into "o-zoni" or "o-shiruko" (a sweet bean soup made with adzuki (red) bean)).

The way that the kagami mochi is offered also has some symbolism. The wooden stand, "sanbo" is used as a form of courtesy when presenting gifts to someone of respect. The tangerine, "daidai" is homonymous with the word "daidai" which means "for generations", it is considered to bring good luck. The green fern, "urajiro" green on one side and white on the other, symbolizes the purity of heart, as well as living a long life until one's hair turns white.
The red and white colored paper streamer, "gohei" symbolizes the wishes for prosperity, the red signifies warding off evil spirits.

Since we didn't have any "kagami mochi" to take down or to eat, this was our breakfast today, smoked salmon, avocado, tomato & red bell pepper with a vinagrette and some fresh basil, cranberry-lavender campagne bread with cream cheese.


Journal Actif said...

Japan has such a rich, interesting culture! Thank you for telling us about it the way you do.
The cranberry lavender bread is intriguing to me. It looks very hearty on the picture. I'm hesitating, may be I can create a similar bread...
We had salmon for breakfast too this morning, only on bagels with cream cheese and green onions.
Have a great week!

K and S said...

Hi Zoubida,
Thanks for stopping by!
The cranberry lavender bread is a very hearty country bread. I think they use lavender oil because there are no lavender bits in it(unless they grind it up into their flour).
Have a nice day!
Kat & Satoshi