As early as December, Japanese supermarkets start selling New Year’s decorations. The most traditional is kagami mochi, two mochi and a mandarin stacked on top of each other. ‘Kagami’ means mirror, because the two mochi seem to have the shape of a bronze mirror used in Japan in ancient times. The mandarin is called ‘dai-dai’ and symbolizes hope and prosperity for the days to come.
Among the various decorations for New Year’s Eve, kagami mochi was the one I was most likely to buy, given the limited space in my share house room. Unfortunately I waited too long and the last days of December were gone! Yama then explained to me that it is bad practice to buy this type of decorations at the last moment, because you end up attracting bad luck instead of good luck. This in my opinion is a further example of the consideration of the Japanese towards others and the world around them. Anyway, no kagami mochi that year. Fortunately, the share house had its own decorations with which they decorated the common areas for both Christmas and New Year!
By the way, you can buy various kagami mochi and arrange them in the different rooms of the house, because each has a divinity!
The mochi is eaten on January 1, in ozoni or oshiruko, to obtain some of the power of the deity residing in the mochi. You can count on your fingers the number of restaurants offering ozoni (the traditional New Year’s soup)… I know one, but… himitsu! 😉 Oshiruko is made with azuki beans. A version had been prepared by the secretary and a couple of school teachers on the first day of returning from the holiday closure. People of all ages and backgrounds in a room were passing cups full of soup and mochi and hashi, wishing each other a happy new year. For me, it’s the little things that make a day enjoyable and make me remember it with joy.
We bought another version a few days later in Yanaka Ginza, while we were taking a stroll in search of street food. There are what we would call neighborhood associations (or trade associations) which, at certain times of the year, organize small kiosks to celebrate days or events all together. In this case, the traders in the area had agreed to offer oshiruko, both simple and with slightly different aromas and flavors. There were benches to consume on the spot, or you could take them home.
Strolling around Tokyo is a continuous surprise and nice days kasanaru. My wish for the new year is to meet Tokyo and my friends again! What’s yours?