Dec 28, 2017
Minimum Level Decorating for Japanese New Years
Last year's New Year's decoration explanation for friends back home.
If you've been out to the grocery store, DIY superstore, or even the 100 yen store in December, you might have seen some of these items lingering around and if you haven't had to use them before, many of them might seem a bit strange.
The thing that always alerts me to the approach of New Years is the kagamimochi, which come in a variety of prices and sizes. This expensive version from the grocery store nearest my home seems to include a calendar and costs a little under 3000 yen as I recall. Also, it is no longer available as it sold out pretty quickly. Simpler versions are available elsewhere for as little as 100 yen for the plain and simple form of one smaller rice cake atop a slightly bigger one, sealed in plastic. These can be decorated as needed it seems, but some of the fancier versions are hollow, made to contain the rectangular, microwave oven friendly mochi packs most people prefer to eat.
These are meant to be placed on a sacred Shinto alter in the home, but as my family has no such alter in our apartment, we frequently make use of the space in front of the television or the dining room counter instead. So far, this has not lead to any horrible ramifications that I know of.
We always get the ones with the next animal zodiac on it now, though our little one has yet to fully understand that no, we can't just play with the little plastic dogs yet. We actually got the last one of these at the grocery store. It was hidden behind the sign and the plastic dome is slightly dented, but it is still good by our standards.
Apparently, on January 11th, kagamibiraki occurs and the kagamimochi is meant to be broken up and cooked with beans. I have never done this and am unlikely to do this in the future. Mine always end up in a bag with the rest of the decorations, waiting for dontosai when we go to the shrine and burn the lot of it.
The only other decoration my little family bothers with is the little wreaths, better known as wa-kazari, which are available in a number of sizes at a variety of prices depending on how dedicated to the business of decorating you are. Their larger versions, the shime-kazari, are meant to decorate the front door.
According to my husband, however, just one of the little bad boys will not do. Instead, you must have one hung high in each room of the house, facing a certain direction. In our house, all eight little wreaths face northwest, but I am not sure if north or west was the intended overall direction.
Decorating for this holiday can be reserved for after Christmas, but beware-- these things are not always still on the shelves for too long after the 25th. This is why, upon seeing them in stock, I rush to the 100 yen store and pick up my lot.
The best days to decorate for this holiday are between December 26th and December 28th. The 29th is bad luck, as is the 31st, which is considered last minute. Everything can be taken down on the 7th of January.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.