In the metro stations there are those bills with events happening over the next few weeks. I think the bills are from the train companies to advertise what’s going on along their routes. They’re entirely in Japanese but always with a picture.
A few weeks ago I saw this photo of a samurai smashing a giant rice cake or so :-). It looked intriguing but we never found out what it was about and where it took place. Only that it was to be on January 12.
That was yesterday. We were on the metro again and saw the advertising again. We searched once more on the internet and this time we found it! Kagami Biraki Festival at the Nippon Budokan Hall. Of course we had to go there :-)
We arrived there at about a quarter to 1pm. Right when the ceremonies started. First Yoroi Kizome, then Sankon no Gi and at last Kagami Biraki. Yoroi Kizome is about wearing the armor – beautifully crafted dresses and hats – for the first time. Sankon no Gi has something to do with drinking sake. And then Kagami Biraki (“unveiling the mirror” or “breaking the rice cake”) is to celebrate the New Year and wish for good luck and success.
I’m not sure if you can see it clearly. Here they wear these beautiful armors. The two pedestals carry the “monster” rice cake (on the right side) and the sake barrel (on the left side). One of the “samurai” men hit on the rice cake with a hammer. Just once. We were a bit surprised as we had expected a kind of a martial art performance. But it was just one hit… :-)
The ceremonies were followed by demonstrations of Budo (Japanese martial arts): Kendo, Aikido, Shorinji-Kempo, Judo, Naginata, Karatedo, Jukendo, Sumo. Each very distinct to each other and with their proper dresses. Very interesting!
After the demonstrations the floor filled with men, women and kids training together. My favourite was to see the little kids practicing Sumo. So cute! I’m now even more looking forward to January 22, when we go to watch the Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku stadium!
In the meantime since hitting the rice cake, they were cooking the mochi in a sweet bean soup and everybody was invited to get a bowl. We probably wouldn’t have dared to go down to fetch a bow. But during the training session we started talking to another spectator – Akira, a sketching artist – and he accompanied us there. We queued in the middle of martial artists (can you say that?) and spectators, most of which probably family and got a bowl each. The soup was very sweet and yummy. The mochi on the other hand is quite chewy and tasteless. I heard that each year a few Japanese choke and die while eating Mochi during this time. No panic, we survived :-)
We opened one of them when our parents were still there. The sheep is obviously a keep-sake for the start of the year of the sheep. But we didn’t know what to do with this creamy white bell-shaped thing. We took it out of its case and it still looked creamy white, a bit shiny. It was hard and brittle. It didn’t smell of anything. It looked like plastic but it had a use-by-date on, so we assumed it had to be something perishable. Maybe a soap? We didn’t have a clue and no one dared tasting it because of our soap theory. Well, now I now what it is and what we should have done with it….