Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
In the olden days, before New Year, most families would pound steamed glutinous rice to make Mochi (餅 / rice cake), an event known as Mochitsuki (餅つき / rice cake pounding). Since rice cultivation was indispensable for the Japanese, they would set aside some mochi as divine offerings for the gods of harvest.
The locals stacked two rice cakes, like a short tiny snowman. Then, they added a Daidai (橙/ bitter orange) on top and decorated it further with a variety of auspicious ornaments. This became one of the most familiar New Year’s propitious decorations – the Kagami mochi (鏡餅 / Mirror-shaped rice cake). Of which, you can usually find in a Japanese home between late December and January 11th.
January 11th is a day for Kagami Biraki (鏡開き/ Division of New Year’s Rice Cakes). The “Mochi Snowman” will be “divided” and broken into smaller pieces, either cracked by hand or hammer. Then, it becomes part of the ingredients for sweet Oshiruko (red bean soup with mochi).
Nowadays, instead of making a Kagami mochi, we usually get a contemporary type that can be easily purchase from supermarkets before New Year. Inside the artificial “mochi” mold, there were two edible Kiri mochi (切り餅 / rectangularly-cut rice cakes), which are made to break easily by hand. We bought an extra bag of kiri mochi since we have more mouths to feed. As for the Daidai, it was just plastic. (Yuck!) :P