It is difficult to learn about the culture of
Currently, rice is considered to be a staple of Japanese food. However, what many are unaware of is that this current understanding of rice in Japanese culture is not entirely accurate of its use historically. According to King, in the later half of the Taisho period, rice was in scarce supply, and it was used as a means of persuasion, promising workers rice three meals a day if they were to move to the city (p. 11). Nonetheless, although rice has been popular since the ancient Yayoi period, historically it was reserved for the deities and the upper class and not until recently did it become something for all to enjoy.
As a symbol of energy and life, rice has become a central pillar of commensality within Japanese culture, acting as a link between humans and deities. In celebration of this, rice comes in a number of different forms, namely as mochi (pounded rice) and as sake (rice wine) (Knecht, p. 7). Mochi comes in many different varieties but it is most famously associated with Japanese New Year celebrations where special mochi rice is pounded into cakes and adorned with paper flowers. These mochi cakes are believed to be material embodiments of the diety, they are often prepared as offerings for the New Year diety and later enjoyed by the family (Knecht, p. 8). Rice, in all its forms is paramount in bonding the people of
Now that we’ve covered some of the symbolism of rice in Japanese religion, check out this links to see rice in action!
A video of the Japanese making mochi:
~guest blogger, Kelly Quinn