Kagamibiraki 2011

Every year, the Nippon Budokan holds one of the most important events in the Japanese Budo world: the Kagamibiraki (鏡開き). The demonstration is usually scheduled at the end of the winter break and this year, the date was set to January 10. It also marks the resuming of training in most dojos that had closed their doors during the holidays. On that day, representatives of some of the most important martial art schools demonstrate their incredible skills to a packed audience of enthusiasts. We of course would not miss that opportunity to enjoy the display and this year. We attended the event with our colleagues at BudoExport and took some recording material with us in order to share the event with those who are not lucky enough to be in Japan.

The demonstration is preceded by a Shinto ceremony that involves the breaking of specially made cakes (kagami mochi, 鏡餅), that consist of two round rice cakes place on top of one another with a shiny finish that mimics the surface of a round mirror (kagami, 鏡)[1]. The superposition of the small mochi on top of the bigger one symbolizes the yin and the Yang[2] as well as the passing of a year and the coming of the new one[3].

Kagamibiraki litterally means "the opening of the mirror" and although it has come to be very famous amongst martial arts practitioners, it originally designates the shinto ceremony, and has only been recently adopted by martial artists when Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, decided in 1884 to celebrate it at his Kodokan dojo[4]. the celebration was subsequently adopted by other martial arts including Aikido[5] and Karate.

The Kagamibiraki ceremony involves the breaking of the mochi with a mallet, which is then shared between the attendees and eaten with sweet azuki bean soup (oshiruko, お汁粉). Note that the cake is broken and not cut with a knife as the mostly Samurai avoided referring to cutting, especially around new year[3]. This heritage form the Samurai is still visible today during the ceremony at the Budokan with a fully armored bushi that breaking the mochi and a whole group of Samurai parading to mark the opening of the demonstrations.

For a more detailed account of the actual event of the Nippon Budokan, please go and have a look at our partner BudoExport's blog.

Samurai opening march

Kyudo - Kawana Shutoku, Yamada Naomi, and Abe Satoshi

Shorinji Kempo - Ishii Akihito, Uesugi Yoshinori, Sugioka Shuji, Kamimura Isshin, Yamazaki Tatsuya, Tanabe Rinako, Yusaku Maiko, Inada Mika, Uchikawa Maiko, Ochiai Yumi, Umebayashi Akari, Kato Chika, and Nakao Mihoko

Kendo - Karugome Mitsuyo and Akiba Chieko

Aikikai Aikido - Sakuraï Hiroyuki Shihan (6th Dan) and Suzuki Kojiro Shidoin (5th Dan)

Aikikai Aikido - Irie Yoshinobu Shihan (6th Dan) and Kodani Yuichi Shidoin (5th Dan)

Aikikai Aikido - Kanazawa Takeshi Shihan (7th Dan) and Ito Makoto Shidoin (5th Dan)

Aikikai Aikido - Kobayashi Yukimitsu Shihan (7th Dan), Ito Makoto Shidoin (5th Dan), and Kodani Yuichi Shidoin (5th Dan)

Naginata - Tanimoto Ryoko, Tokuchi Masayo, Kataniwa Emi, Yoshii Kazuyo, Tanimoto Yukari, Koyama Tomoko, Terui Junko, Sohara Kotaro, and Tamagawa Ryutaro

Judo - Tsuchiya Masahiro and Sunaga Daiji

Karatedo - Sugino Takumi, Soma Takato, Arimoto Koji, Inoue Kazuyo, Sakai Fumi, and Kimura Yoko

Jukendo - Ogawa Isao, Karakawa Toshihiro, Onta Hideki, Suzuki Akihiro, Kato Kimihisa, Taniyama Takeo, Sugawara Makoto, Hoshi Tomoyasu, Kurita Kenji, and Kurihara Jun

Sumo - Masuda Mamoru, Kawasaki Shintaro, Sekita Yudai, Fukasawa Tomoki, Kikuchi Momoto, Nakamura Kazuhisa, Kurokawa Soichiro, and Takagi Ritta


  1. . . Japan Trip Advisor,January 05, 2011. In English.
  2. . . AJINOMOTO Co., Inc.,January 01, 2004. In English.
  3. . Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano: Early History of Judo. Bloomington, IN. Trafford Publishing,October 3, 2008. Hardcover in English, 220 pages, ISBN-10: 1425187714.
  4. . . Aikikai official website,January 09, 2011. In English.
About the author
Guillaume Erard
Author: Guillaume ErardWebsite:
Founder of the site in 2007, Guillaume has a passion for Japanese culture and martial arts. After having practiced Judo during childhood, he started studying Aikido in 1996, and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in 2008. He currently holds the ranks of 4th Dan in Aikido (Aikikai) and 2nd Dan in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu (Takumakai). Guillaume is also passionate about science and education and he holds a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology since 2010. He currently lives in Tokyo and works as a consultant for medical research. > View Full Profile

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