FIRST TRAINING OF THE YEAR CEREMONY, JAPAN, 1978
The first training of the year is one of the most important yearly dojo ceremonies, and in keeping with general Japanese custom.
The ceremony of Kagami Biraki is performed in most homes, factories and companies throughout Japan on the 11th of January every year. It is the ceremony in which the Kagami Mochi, a particular rice cake made on December 28th as an offering to Buddha, is cut and eaten with Oshiruko – sweet red beans. With the completion of this ceremony, work and training begins in earnest for the new year.
In the dojo, a short training is followed by the presentation of prizes to Tokyo Honbu dojo’s top students and then the Kagami Biraki ceremony.
Every year, the ceremony begins at 5:30 am. Those students able to attend arrive around 5:00 am when it is still very dark and cold. However, because of the size of Tokyo, and that the local trains do not start running until 5:00 am, most of Tokyo Honbu dojo’s students are unable to attend. Even so, the dojo was packed with over 100 students when the drum call began at 5:30 am.
During the training those members of the staff who do not train Karate begin the cooking of the mochi, rice cake, and other foods; the sweet beans having been prepared the day before. As the large number of people make it impossible for everyone to have a piece of the original Kagami Mochi, ordinary mochi is substituted and hundreds of pieces are prepared.
Originally the ceremony of the offering and then eating of the Kagami Mochi was observed only by ladies on the 20th of January. The cake is therefore round in the shape of a mirror – the representation of a lady – and called Kagami; mirror. However, during the Samurai era of Japan, this ceremony was taken over by the Samurai who changed the day to the 11th – the character 11 being easily condensed to the character for Bu, as in Bushi (Samurai). The cake was offered in temples and Shrines before being eaten for the promotion of Budo, for prosperity, and to receive the blessing of the Gods. At this time, red beans were added as the Samurai particularly hated them due to their connotations with blood and death, and it thus enabled them to meditate on and come to terms with their ultimate destiny; death by the sword. Today red beans are kept because they are reckoned to be the most delicious combination with Omochi.
The dojo training, taken by Kancho Oyama, follows that of a normal training. It finishes one hour later, just as the day breaks and light begins to stream in through the windows.
The dojo is then cleaned by the students and prepared for the ceremony. After everything is ready, Kancho Oyama gives a short speech and the prizes are presented. Each winner is presented with a certificate and either a trophy or a shield. Three prizes for Effort are awarded to both the men’s and Ladies’ groups. Two prizes to the Senior Men and one prize for junior boys. Prizes are also awarded for Fighting Spirit, Special Technique and for a good contribution to the Kyokushinkaikan. This year’s Fighting Spirit Prize was awarded to a student who had attended 326 days of training in 1977, and the Contribution Prize went to the Barber who has kindly cut the Uchi-Deshi’s hair, unpaid, for over 6 years. The Special Kyokushin Prize for an outstanding contribution to the Kyokushinkaikan was not awarded this year.
On the completion of the presentation mochi and Oshiruko to each person as quickly as possible, and soon the dojo becomes a busy hum of people enjoying a rather special breakfast.
Throughout the eating, various students come forward to sing, and this year the congregation was lucky to be entertained by a student with some talent on the guitar. Unfortunately, time closes the ceremony at around 8:00 am as students must attend school and workers must make it to their companies. When the 11th falls on a Sunday, the ceremony continues late into the morning, by which time all students present will have sung a song, drunk plenty of warm Sake, and eaten themselves full of mochi and oshiruko.