Ever since I started my first dojo in 1992, in the middle of January, we observe the Japanese tradition of New Year Celebration, known as Kagami Biraki. We make fresh Kagami Mochi (pounded sweet rice cakes) just prior to the end of the year. A special offering is made on the Kamiza (dojo shinto shrine) which is the spiritual heart of the dojo where the Kami (spirit) of the dojo resides. Since the Kamidana (house for the spirit) was given to me by my late teacher Mitsunari Kanai Sensei (1939-2004) it has great meaning for me. By remembering to observe Kagami Biraki it is another way for me to honor Kanai Sensei’s memory as well.
As well as the Kamiza, we also have other Shinto ritual objects besides the Kagami Mochi like the sake cask and mirror (see Kamidana open doors of upper left). It is the time to get together with members of the dojo to honor this event as Kagami Biraki is traditionally the time when practitioners of Budo (Martial Way) go to visit the dojo and Sensei (teacher). It is the time at the Aikikai Hombu dojo when there are promotions for Aikido practitioners of Godan (5th degree Black Belt) and above from around the world. At the 2018 Kagami Biraki at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, some of my friends and colleagues were promoted to Nanodan (7th degree Black Belt). Congratulations!This is the raw sweet rice, prior to steaming which has been soaked overnight then drained. These are the Azuki (Red) Beans which have been washed and drained, then into the Instant Pot to cook under pressure to make Azuki Bean Soup special for Kagami Biraki.These are all the ingredients to make the special Azuki Bean Soup with fresh mochi. Of course it helps to have a Mochi Maker instead of doing the old fashion Mochi Tsuki.
I’m just the mochi maker-person. The “proof of the pudding is in the eating” or in this case the mochi is in the Azuki Bean soup.
Finally the practice starting with the mochi making and ending with Reishiki (etiquette).