Japanese Language Blog

Japanese Culture: Kagami biraki (鏡開き) Posted by on Jan 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

The observance of kagmi biraki (鏡開き) is usually an indication that the New Year’s celebrations are winding down to a close.  Kagami biraki (鏡開き) is usually celebrated on the eleventh of January, but it can differ depending on the region.  Kagami biraki (鏡開き) means ‘breaking of the mochi’ in Japanese.  Mochi (もち) is a white rice cake.  Mochi (もち) is a general term for rice cake in Japanese.  The specific mochi (もち) consumed on on kagami biraki (鏡開き) is a mochi (もち) called kagami mochi (鏡餅). 

Kagami mochi (鏡餅) consists of two round mochi (もち) cakes one on top of the other.  The larger mochi (もち) cake is on the bottom, while the smallar one is on the top.  Sometimes a daidai (代々) is placed on the very top of the kagami mochi (鏡餅).  A daidai (代々) is a bitter type of orange.  The kanji (かんじ) or Chinese characters for daidai (代々) means generation to generation.  As a result, a daidai (代々) is placed on top of the mochi (もち) to symbolize the continuation of generations and long life.

Unlike regular mochi (もち), the kagami mochi (鏡餅) is placed in a special part of the house.  Some traditional Japanese homes have a small, home-made shrine called a kamidana (かみだな).  On the kamidana (かみだな), you’ll see a sanpoo (三宝) or a stand.  The sanpoo (三宝) holds the shihoobeni (四方紅).  Shihoobeni (四方紅) is a sheet of cloth on which the kagami mochi (鏡餅) is placed.

On the day of kagami biraki (鏡開き), the kagami mochi (鏡餅) is broken into edible bits with a hammer.  Using a knife to cut the kagami mochi (鏡餅) is considered taboo.  The cutting act symbolizes the cutting of family ties and so a hammer is used instead.  I think that eating a kagami mochi (鏡餅) is a perfect way to end the New Year’s celebrations.  On that note, I’m going to end this post by showing you a Youtube clip on how to make kagami mochi (鏡餅).

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