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Entries in New Years decorations (2)

Wednesday
Jan022013

Kagami Mochi

   Kagami mochi (鏡餅, literally mirror rice cake) is a traditional Japanese New Year decoration, which consists of two round mochi (rice cakes), the smaller placed atop the larger, and a Japanese bitter orange, known as a daidai, with an attached leaf on top. It may also have a sheet of konbu and a skewer of dried persimmons under the mochi.

   It often sits on a stand called a sanpō (三宝, see photo below) over a sheet called a shihōbeni (四方紅), which is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following year. Sheets of paper called gohei (御幣) or shide folded into lightning shapes are also sometimes attached.

   Kagami mochi first appeared in the Muromachi period (14th-16th century), the name kagami ("mirror") having allegedly originated from its resemblance to an old-fashioned kind of round copper mirror which also had a religious significance.

   The two mochi discs are also said to symbolize the going and coming years, the human heart, yin and yang, or the moon and the sun. The daidai (橙), whose name is synonymous with "generations" (代々), is said to symbolize the continuation of a family from generation to generation.

   Traditionally, the kagami mochi was placed in various locations throughout the house. Nowadays, however, it is usually placed in a household Shintô altar, called a kamidana or placed in a small decorated alcove, called a tokonoma, in the main room of the home. (Once again, adapted from Wikipedia's entry.)

   The kagami mochi in my home.

   At a small privately owned shrine in the neighborhood.

   At Kego Shrine in Tenjin, Fukuoka.

   The neighborhood mochi shop at the end of the year.

   Fresh mochi rice cakes.

Wednesday
Jan022013

Shimenawa

   Shimenawa (七五三縄, literally "enclosing rope") are another common decoration during the Japanese New Year. Rice straw is braided together to form a rope, that is then ornamented with pine, fern fronds, more straw and mandarine oranges. They can represent a variety of auspicious items, such as the rising sun over Mt. Fuji or a crane. The shimenawa pictured above is the one hanging on my front door.

   Used mostly for ritual purification in the Shintô religion, shimenawa can vary in diameter from a few centimetres to several metres, and are often seen festooned with shide paper. The space bound by shimenawa often indicates a sacred or pure space, such as that of a Shinto shrine.

   Shimenawa are believed to act as a ward against evil spirits and are often set up at a ground-breaking ceremony before construction begins on a new building. They are often found at Shinto shrines, torii gates, and sacred landmarks.

   They are also tied around objects capable of attracting spirits or inhabited by spirits, called yorishiro. These include trees, in which case the inhabiting spirits are called kodama, and cutting down these trees is thought to bring misfortune. In cases of stones, the stones are known as iwakura. (Adapted from the Wikipedia site.)

   Most of the following photos were taken of shimenawa hanging at the entrance of restaurants in my neighborhood.