Kagami Biraki, a first try at making mochi

Prova di cottura del Mochi

The youngsters from the Dojo Kenshiro Abbe were thrilled to be able to help prepare for the Kagami Biraki 2012, which will be held in Sarnano on 8th January!

This year, for the first time, we wanted to revive an important aspect of this Japanese tradition: preparing the Mochi (rice cakes), which will be served as part of the ritual on the day of the Kagami Biraki ceremony.

Being together, both before and during the event, has a symbolic meaning: the difficulties faced in the past year are put aside in order to share a light-hearted moment and to bring good luck for the year about to start.

Tuesday, 27th December was the day on which you could say things actually started since the real preparation is actually done, as per the tradition, the week before the day of the Kagami Biraki celebration. Traditionally, the preparation of the mochi with the Mochitsuki (beating the rice in the Usu) happens on 30th or 31st December.

Having overcome the challenge of finding the right ingredients (the rice came directly from Japan, as well as Atsuki beans, Nori seaweed, Mirin and soy sauce) and the indispensable tools to cook and work the rice, we moved onto the operational phase and for which we were helped by our dear Japanese friend, Hideaki Kawano, who very kindly agreed to help us and guide us in making the mochi.

The main steps are:

  • After having soaked the rice and the atsuki (red beans) in water the day before, so begins the steam cooking. The rice used, coming directly from Japan, is of a special quality called “Mochigome”. It was kindly sent by our friend, Judo Master Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki, 8th Dan, World Champion (Maastricht 1981), and now Director of the International Exchange Center at the IBU (International Budo University) of the famous University of Katsuura (a small town in the Chiba prefecture). Judo Master K. Kashiwazaki, became famous for being a specialist in Sutemi Waza (sacrifice techniques) and Ne Waza (ground work), as well as for his speciality called: “Furiko Tomoe Nage” (a side sacrifice technique which works on the principle of the movement of a pendulum).
  • The rice then gets beaten with two large wooden mallets (“Kine” in Japanese) in a type of stone mortar which in Japanese is called a “Usu”. The young people thoroughly enjoyed the job of crushing and pounding the rice and participated enthusiastically, waiting patiently before taking their turn.
  • The rice was then spread on a wooden tray and prepared for cutting into small rectangles. At the same time, and always under the expert eye of Hideaki Kawano, the sweet sauce was prepared with mirin and soy sauce.
  • With rice and the sauces were prepared pastries which are traditionally eaten during the Kagami Biraki.
  • Having the rice and the sweet sauce, the sweets traditionally eaten at the Kigami Biraki were ready.
  • Finally, with great satisfaction, we were able to taste the rice and the food that we had so carefully cooked.

It was fantastic to see how eager all the youngsters were to participate, carefully following the instructions of Mr Hideaki. The final result was more the positive and everyone is to be congratulated. Now we are more than ready to celebrate the Kagami Biraki, fully respecting this authentic Japanese tradition!

“Personally,” commented Judo Master Corrado Croceri, “I was very pleased to see how the young people worked together and helped each other in making the Mochi. It represents an important moment to share within the group and the others who come to watch. It was truly an important experience and I was very impressed. Once more, Judo, beyond ideology, religion, race, colour and costume, brings people together with the simplicity and purity or its universal values.”

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