Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Carpe Diem #643, Mirror Rice Cakes (Kagamimochi)

!! I will publish this episode earlier than I normally do, because of the nightshift!!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

As you can see I have changed the background of our Haiku Kai. Here in The Netherlands temperatures feel like spring ... so I decided to replace the snow-field for snowdrops:

yearning for spring
the frost makes nature suffer -
snowdrops are blooming

(c) Chèvrefeuille

We are exploring the classical kigo (seasonwords) for New Year, the fifth season, and as I told you earlier in one of our episodes those kigo have often a relation with Shinto religion. Today's prompt is also a traditional Shinto religion related kigo, Mirror Rice Cakes (Kagamimochi).

Kagamimochi is a special traditional Japanese decoration for the New Year, usually displayed inside the house in the kamidana, for Toshigami, the god of the new year, to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.
Kagamimochi is made from two rice cakes (mochi) of different sizes, the smaller placed over the larger one, and a daidai, a Japanese type of bitter orange placed on top. In some versions, the mochi are placed on a konbu sheet, a symbol of pleasure and joy.

The shimekazari New Year decoration can mean “generation to generation”, so the small orange symbolizes the continuity of the generations and long life, while the mochi symbolizes the past year and the year to come. So, kagamimochi symbolizes the continuity of the family over the years.
The name has also an interesting explanation: the shape of the two mochi is similar to the shape of the copper round mirrors (kagami in Japanese) used during the Muromachi period – you can see several photos at the Kyoto National Museum.

Credits: Kagamimochi
The kagamimochi is kept until the beginning of January when, on 11th, (or on the second Saturday or Sunday from January) a Shinto ritual named Kagami Biraki (the opening of the mirror) takes place, the first important ritual after the New Year. Then, the kagamimochi is broken, with the hand or with a hammer, into edible-size pieces and it is cooked (e.g. shiruko). A knife is never used, because that would mean cutting the family ties.
Isn't it a wonderful custom? And I have found two nice haiku written by Issa with these Rice Cakes in it ... but not completely the same as the above described maybe ...

o-fukuro ga fukude wo chigiru shinan kana
Mama's way
of shaping rice cake offerings...
a lesson

© Issa
kazari mochi hotoke no hiza wo choto kariru
rice cake offerings--
on Buddha's lap
for just a little while

© Issa
Credits: Kagamimochi

Awesome set of haiku I think and this one by Kyoroku

Iseebi no kagamimochi ya gusokubitsu
cutting the ricecakes
and taking off the lobsters -
armour in the chest
© Morikawa Kyoriku (Kyoroku)
Or this one especially by Basho ... a nice one I think, because for the direct idea in it of  family ties:
taga muko zo shida ni mochi ou ushi no toshi
Whose bridegroom is he?
Driving an ox with ferned rice cake.
The year of the Ox!
© Basho
All wonderful haiku. And to conclude this episode I have another nice haiku about Kagamimochi for you written by a haiku-poet named Sanki Saito. I have found this haiku at the weblog of Fay Aoyagi "Blue Willow Haiku World". (Maybe you remember her from our "Just Read" episode about the moon).

kagami-mochi kuraki tokoro ni warete zasu
with a crack
rice cake ornament
sits in the darkness

© Sanki Saito
And now it's up to us to write also about this very nice and beautiful Shinto Tradition of the New Year Season ... I think that will not be easy ... so I have tried to place this "ancient tradition" into a somewhat "modern tradition" ...
In my family we have a nice tradition, it's more than 100 years a family-tradition, which we honor still nowadays. 
Shuffleboard (in Dutch: sjoelen)
Around New Year we all (my family) came together at the home of the Patriarch and Matriarch of the family to play a game of shuffleboard and to bake New Year rolls (a kind of coiled waffle filled with whipped cream). And of course we had a nice dinner  with drinks and all, but that wasn't the important part of that family-party. The main part and the part I loved the most was playing a game of shuffleboard and baking New Year rolls.

family gathering
playing a game of shuffleboard -
Ah! those waffles

© Chèvrefeuille

Another one, also based on that wonderful family-tradition:

together again
my brother and I hiding in the kitchen -
whipped cream fingers

© Chèvrefeuille
This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until January 10th at noon (CET). I will (try to) post our next episode, our second haiku by Sogi, our featured haiku-poet this month, later on.


  1. A great lesson, Kristjaan! Wonderful haiku examples --- and I was so moved by the final haiku.

  2. "Mama's way...."
    ha-ha...a lesson in how NOT to do it.
    Mine went in the bin. Inedible.
    Fun post.

  3. Yes, wonderful post, and very touching.

  4. Yes, the last one made me sad remembering your brother. It is, also, amusing as our grandchildren and step grandchildren had a whipping cream mishap the night the tree decorating was done. What is it with whipped cream?

  5. You have found such strong and beautiful haiku for this prompt! I had never heard about Kagamimochi before, so...yes, something to learn every day - also through haiku :)
    Kristjaan, your last haiku, so personal and touching, really made me think of moments and memories to be cherished.

  6. Oh.. this was a challenging kigo..

  7. This is a beautiful custom and reminds of times spent in Japan and times with a beloved, now returned to Japan. I look forward to receiving future posts from you. I have two websites but aki no koe is just poetry, lovely examples of haiku for this new year post.

  8. What a beautiful custom and I love your haiku, Kristjaan, especially the last one made me smile. Throughout my reading, I could not help but imagine a photo of our four generations...lovely post and prompt...thank you.