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History of Mochi Rice Cakes

As we talked about mochi in the last blog post, now you all know that rice (glutinous rice) is the raw material for mochi. In Japan, rice cultivation is at the root of cultural formation, and rice has been considered a sacred crop. Since the power of rice is concentrated in mochi that is pounded and hardened, it has long been believed that eating mochi will give you strength.


It is believed that the spirit of Toshigamisama, the New Year's god that we introduced last week, who presides over a bountiful harvest and happiness for the year, resides in mochi. In Japan, New Year is a time to welcome Toshigamisama and pray to him to bring us happiness. Eating mochi during New Year has the meaning of receiving the spirit of Toshigamisama that dwells in mochi and giving us the spirit of the New Year. The soul here means the power to live, so when the New Year comes around, we receive the power to live in the New Year from Toshigamisama. That is why it is said that it is good to eat a lot of mochi for ozoni.


In the old days, everyone in Japan turned one year older at the same time on New Year's Day, not on their birthdays. This is because it was believed that if you counted the number of souls you received from Toshigamisama in every New Year (you receive one each year), that would be your age. This is also the reason why people were one year old at birth instead of zero, since you have a soul from the time you are born.


The act of sharing the spirit of Toshigamisama is called mitamawake. The spirit of Toshigamisama is said to reside in round mochi. This is why kagamimochi is round shaped. On New Year's Day, the head of the family shares the mochi with their family members. This is the origin of Otoshidama, or New Year's money gift for children in recent years.


Originally, otoshidama was mochi, but nowadays it is commonplace to give money to children. This is because the times have changed to a money-oriented society and people's sense of values have changed.


While money is fine for children to enjoy, why not give mochi as well so that the original meaning of otoshidama can be conveyed? For children who cannot eat mochi well yet, it might be interesting to give them rice crackers or other snacks made from rice.

Otoshidama Money Gift (above)

We offer the envelopes for it at the store. (below)


There is a lot of food items, housewares, stationery, and gifts available at the store and our online store, Maido! Kairashi Shop, where you can place your order for shipping or store pickup! Happy shopping. :)


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