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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on December 24, 2013
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition: December 2013, Issue 8

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 8]
December 24, 2013
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival:
A holy event with offerings to god: “Pounding Mochi”

2. News From JTCO:
New Article Released - Yano Kamoji: Yano Hairpiece

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

A holy event with offerings to god: “Pounding Mochi”

Around the time of New Year in Japan, there are some common scenes
to see such as cleaning the house to welcome the gods; displaying
shimenawa, which are binding ropes that act as a spiritual barrier;
and kadomatsu, which are pine tree decorations. And of course
mochi, Japanese rice cakes made with mochigome, glutinous rice.

Although pounding mochi is now only seen in local area or company
events, this tradition previously took place in individual
farmer’s houses. It was thought to be a holy event, so the place
where it was held was purified with salt and a shimenawa was put
up to show that it was a sanctuary.

Japanese and mochi are inseparable as many events are related to
mochi. Kagami mochi is to be offered to god or to be put in zoni,
a New Year’s soup. Hishi mochi is a diamond shaped mochi
displayed on March 3rd during Hinamatsuri, a festival to celebrate
young girl’s growth. Kashiwa mochi contains sweet azuki beans and
is eaten on May 5th during Tango no Sekku, Boy’s Day. Bota mochi
and ohagi are a slightly different type of mochi, but they are
also sweet with azuki beans. Tsukimi dango are also small, round
skewered mochi. Ancient Japanese people believed that spiritual
power dwelled within rice and that mochi made with rice possesses
a special holy power.

People carefully chose the date to pound mochi to welcome the New
Year. December 29th was avoided because nine was considered an
unlucky number. December 31st was also avoided because the way
people had to urgently prepare mochi reminded some people of
rushing to prepare an all-night vigil over a body when somebody
died. Therefore people mostly chose to pound mochi between
December 26th and December 28th. December 28th was the most
popular date as eight was believed to be a lucky number.

The origin of kagami mochi, literally mirror rice cake, has
various theories. For example, it could be that the name kagami
(“mirror”) is used because mochi is shaped like a bronze mirror
in which gods dwelled. Or perhaps it is because women displayed
mochi in front of a mirror. Round shapes symbolize peace without
troubles so people used the decorations to pray for a harmonious
life. Kagami mochi is usually displayed in important places like a
Buddhist altar or a tokonoma, which is an alcove where ornaments,
hanging scrolls or flower arrangements are displayed in a tatami
mat room. However, ancient Japanese people used mochi to adorn
many more places such as by the hearth, in the bathroom, near the
toilet or in a shed with farming tools. It is thought that they
believed that a different god was dwelling in each room.

It is very interesting to watch the mochi in the mortar being
pounded using human strength with a large wooden mallet. This
tradition should be passed on to new generations eternally.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Catherine Newman

:: 2. News From JTCO

New Article Released!

[Traditional Crafts]

Yano Kamoji: Yano Hairpiece (Hiroshima Pref.)

Essentially Kamoji indicates women’s hairpiece, but broadly
includes wig. Kamoji produced in Yano-cho, Hiroshima is well known

Translation: Yuka Toguchi, reviewed by Chan Yitin

Copyright by Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion and
Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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