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Goin’ Japanesque!

Hanamochi: Red and White Rice Cake Flowers that Add Color to the Harsh Winters

Now is just about the time of cherry blossoms. All about there are blossoms of pink flowers and everyone is enjoying hanami to the fullest. So of course we have some content that is perfect for this season of blossoms. It is a bit different from sakura, but we would like to introduce a pink flower that is a little bit unique, along with its historical background.

 

What is the Hanamochi?

花餅

hanamochi2
A Type of Hanging Hanamochi (Meiji Period), https://www.flickr.com

The hanamochi is a seasonal tradition for winter that has been passed down in the Hida Takayama region of Gifu Prefecture. Mochi or rice cakes that represent flowers are attached on to a real branch. It was difficult to get live flowers during the winter in the snowy regions of Hida Takayama and so they did not have any decorative flowers for the New Years. The hanamochi was designed as a colorful decoration during this time. Due to the hanamochi being developed, the New Year’s changed to a happy and lively experience and became an exciting tradition that children could be happy about. The hanamochi that was used for decoration during the New Year’s would later be used in the kagami-biraki (ceremony for cutting the rice cake) and made into rice crackers to be eaten, or was preserved until March 3rd for the hina-matsuri (doll’s festival) and eaten as hina-arare (a type of rice cracker eaten for hina-matsuri).

So in case you were wondering, “Why mochi?” we want to provide a little explanation. Mochi was traditionally considered as an auspicious food. Also, the colors red and white are also considered auspicious colors and are used often in celebration. From this perspective, the hanamochi is displayed so that the red and white colored mochi are placed side by side. It is perfect for the festive New Year’s celebrations.

*There are regions other than Hida Takayama that have the tradition of making Hanamochi. Generally, in other regions it is called Mochibana.

 

Types of Hanamochi and their Usage

Unlike live flowers, the hanamochi will never wilt. Because of that it is considered an auspicious item. There are some varieties in the way it is displayed.

hanamochi3
Weeping Willow Hanamochi, http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/sh64087

The droopy appearance looks like ripe golden ears of rice so it symbolizes hopes for a bountiful harvest.

hanamochi4
http://blog.goo.ne.jp/hattogogogo

Like an ikebana in the alcove of the Japanese style room.

hanamochi6
http://kurashijisshoku.at.webry.info/

A decorative addition to the hotel or ryokan lobby

hanamochi5
http://chat-montmartre.blogspot.jp/

Nowadays, it has changed a little. There are added colors of green and yellow to make it look more colorful.

hanamochi7
https://ja.wikipedia.org

Placed in the entrance of an old house; it’s a nice touch in the winter townscape

 

There may not be the dynamism or glamour of modern art or projection mapping, but there is a subtle beauty that can be felt from the hanamochi. The process of attaching the mochi one piece at a time, naturally promotes lively conversation among family and friends that have gathered for the season; it can be said that that is the virtue of a tradition that is practiced in a close knit group. They are very easy to make so if you’re interested we encourage you to try making hanamochi yourself to decorate your room.

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