Today we attended the Mochitsuki (餅搗き, "mochi pounding") ceremony at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, to celebrate the New Year. Traditional mochi preparation takes one or more people with large wooden mallets to pound a football-sized glob of glutinous rice, while another brave person turns the mochi and adds water as needed. To avoid broken fingers, taiko drums keep the rhythm.
The group Kagami Kai prepared the mochi (with help from some lucky volunteers from the audience) and put on a fantastic taiko show. Their uniforms (see photo by David Toshiyuki) feature a very stylized, classically drawn kanji that I didn't recognize until my native speaker friend pointed out the modern form. It looked a little like this:
|At a Glance (details at jisho.org)|
|Similar don't know|
|To Remember um...|
The character above, which is close to the Kagami Kai character but not identical, is an older (seal script) version of kagami, "mirror" — or a "mirror mochi" offering made near the new year. In hindsight, the Kagami Kai name should have been enough of a clue, even though the radical 金 (gold) and "sound with legs" component (音, 儿) look very different from the modern representation of kagami below:
|鏡||At a Glance (details at jisho.org)|
|Meaning Mirror, round mochi offering, ...|
|Vocabulary 眼鏡 (glasses), 鏡 (mirror), ...|
|Similar 竟 (final); 境 (boundary); 竸 (contest)|
|Variants 獍 (rare)|
|To Remember gold (金); stand (立); but not 見 (see)|
For a while, I've been drawing 鏡 wrong — it looks like the lower right should be 見, which makes sense because mirrors are related to seeing — but it's not. It's just a "sun with legs." The radical (金: gold/metal), however, is a decent reminder.
鏡 exists in Chinese as well, but Japanese has its own etymology: かがみ arises from 影 (かげ, "shadow") and 見 (み, "see"). Shadows offer enough topic material for a new page, so I will not wander too far here. But another word for shadow - 陰 - takes on additional meanings of yin (vs. yang) and secret; when you add the grass radical, the new kanji, 蔭, retains "shadow", drops "yin" and "secret", and adds the sense of grace, benevolence, and assistance. This is part of the set phrase お陰様で -- "I am fine, thanks to you".
We'll stop here for now. また今度!