January 11: The cutting of New Year's rice-cakes.
by Mie
The New Year festival season of 1999 was over. We have a ceremonial event called "Kagami-biraki", or literally meaning, "mirror opening" today.

In Japan, people offer rice cakes called "Kagami-mochi" to the gods. It consists of two round shaped rice cakes, smaller one on top of the other larger one. It is then offered to the gods by setting on the alcove like this. In old days, people compared a round rice cake (Mochi) to a round mirror (Kagami.)
In a traditional formal way to decorate the front entrance of a house, people used to set up a pair of "Kadomatsu", literally meaning "Gate pine." A Kadomatsu consists of three bamboo stalks skirted with pine twigs and straw at the base. Ume twigs are added to enhance the happiness. Today, however, we use a pair of rectangular paper on which the illustration of those plants is printed. This is partially because to simplify the cerebration, partially because to protect the plants from cutting. City officials distribute two sheets of the paper every year-end to each home. Last year-end, I put one of them on the front door and another one on the garden door that was newly installed last year-end. Today, I removed all of them.
We remove traditional decorations such as Shimekazari (left) attached on the entrance and "Kagamimochi" as well. We brace ourselves to start the year. Actually, after the first three days of the new year, we have already returned to the ordinary life. Today, we say anew good-bye both in name and reality to the festive New Year's holidays.

An ornament on the front door was removed.
I decorated two small Kagami-mochis, one on the Buddhist alter, the other on my personal computer desk. Decorative paper and Shimekazari ornaments will be burnt at an event called "Dontoyaki", or "Let's burn up everything" which will be held on January 15 at an open ground in the community. Yuzu (a small citron) will be put into the bath to enjoy a hot citron bathing, a good idea to keep us healthy in a cold winter. The rice cakes used for Kagami-mochi are cut (open) into pieces and cooked to make sweet soup. In this way, the New-Year events end one by one.

A small pod has been simmering on the kerosene stove from the morning to cook Adzuki beans, which is now releasing appetizing aroma in the kitchen. I will make "Zenzai", or sweet bean soup. During I bake the rice cakes, I set up the table. I prepared two wooden bowls with caps. Salted kelp and pickled radish are served as well to refresh the tongue paralyzed by the sweet Adzuki soup. A bit of salt is added to the pod just before the serve.
The rice cakes which were the parts of Kagami-mochi have now well browned. Now let's enjoy the SWEET Zenzai soup!

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