kagami mochi

02Jan06
This is my New Year’s kagami mochi (鏡餅), or “mirror mochi.” Basically two balls of mochi with dried persimmons, an orange, and Shinto-related ornamentation. Apparently you’re supposed to boil this up on the 15th of January, the end of the New Year’s season. The round shape of the kagami mochi represents the mirror of Amaterasu, the sun goddess. The Japanese myth associated with kagami mochi is a myth of symbolic death and rebirth and in this sense mirrors a host of ancient myths and festivals of renewal (think of Persephone’s yearly journey to the realm of Hades, or even Easter). In any case, the story is that when Amaterasu’s brother, Susano’o the storm god, ravaged the surface of the earth, Amaterasu retreated to a cave in anger and walled herself in, plunging the earth into darkness. The other gods tried to draw her out, but to no avail. Eventually, the goddess Uzume succeeded in drawing her out by performing obscene comedic dances that made the other gods laugh. When Amaterasu peeked out from the cave to see what was making the gods laugh, she saw herself reflected in a mirror that Uzume had placed against a tree some distance off. Curious as to what this new object of reflection was, Amaterasu left her cave, thereby bringing light back into the world. Kagami mochi is meant to symbolize the end of the time of darkness and the renewal of the earth through the return of light.
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