Teeth strengthening (hagatame)


Teeth strengthening Ceremony (hagatame)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: New Year
***** Category: Observance


tooth hardening, teeth hardening
hagatame 歯固 歯がため はがため

rice cakes for strengthening the teeth
hagatame no mochi 歯固の餅 はがためのもち

These cakes were eaten on the first three days of the new year. The custom goes way back to the court of the Heian period.

Diamond Petal Rice Cakes, hishi hanabira mochi,
菱葩餅 ひしはなびらもち

..... "auspicious hard things" o-iwai kachin お祝いかちん(おいわいかちん)
..... o-iwai okachin お祝いおかちん
Eaten at the Imperial Court.

Look at some rice cakes (hishi hanabira mochi)


The Kyoto rice cakes express the change of the seasons and also the spirit of the people, living in Kyoto.
For the New Year in Kyoto people made Japanese cakes with a happy color and shape. 'Hanabira-mochi' (flower petal cakes) , also called 'Hishi-hanabira'(Diamond petal cakes), are cakes for celebration, consisting of burdock, soybean powder and bean jam.

It is said that they were used in the New Year's day ceremony of the Imperial court, called 'O-hagatame'(teeth strenghtening). A bright red rice cake in the shape of diamond is placed inside a transparent white rice cake as to be slightly visible, expressing that there is a dignity inside the elegance and grace.

© Kyoto City Web

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Strengthening the teeth, a job for babies !

on the table rice cakes
the smile on a baby's teething ring

© Gillena Cox, T & T, 2006


. Deities to heal your toothache .


Haiku from ISSA about hardening the teeth

かたむべき歯は一本も なかりけり
katamu beki ha ippon mo nakari keri

teeth to harden
this New Year's meal...
not even one

hagatame no ha ichi mai mo nakari keri

New Year's tooth-hardening
yet toothless!

daidoko no jiji ni hagatame katare keri

old man in the kitchen--
his New Year's tooth-hardening
beats mine

The sorry state of Issa's teeth is magnified by the fact that an old man has a more complete set.

hito mane ni haguki-gatame no tôfu kana

imitating others
hardening their teeth...
tofu for me

The "for me" has been added. Issa is referring to the New Year's tooth-hardening meal. He (or someone) is toothless and so must resort to tofu for the occasion.

katamubeki ha wa ippon mo nakari keri

teeth to harden
this New Year's meal...
not even one

Issa has lost his last tooth on June 1811, at the age of 49. The last tooth has been lost at Futtsu. Issa wrote this haiku sneering at himself.
Issa Kinenkan 一茶記念館

hagatame wa neko ni katarete warai keri

New Year's tooth-hardening
meal...the cat wins
and laughs

© Tr. David Lanoue

the cat wins
the New Year's tooth-hardening -
what a laugh

Tr. Gabi Greve


ha arawa ni fude no koori o kamu yo kana

exposing my teeth
I bite off the ice from the brush
in a freezing night . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

hara no naka e ha wa nukekerashi tane fukube

the teeth seems to have fallen out
inside the stomach -
seeds of a gourd

Tr. Herbert Jonsson

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


. WKD : Body Parts and Haiku .

otoroi ya ha ni kuiateshi nori no suna

ebbing strength--
my teeth detect a grain of sand
in the dried seaweed

Tr. Ueda

getting weak
when a tooth bites down
sand in seaweed

Tr. Reichhold

feeling decrepit
biting on a bit of sand
in the dried seaweed

Tr. Larry Bole

becoming feeble -
my teeth grate on
sand in the seaweed

Tr. Addiss

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

(This hokku has the cut marker YA at the end of line 1.)

. Laver seaweed (nori 海苔) .

Related words

***** . Deantist Haiku .
and the god of toothache

***** WKD: Ceremonies of Japan Nihon no Gyooji 日本の行事






Gabi Greve said...

Suddenly the funny face of Issa appeared on Gabi's page.
I have perfectly full tooth. I know a great master of dentist in my neighborhood.

Gabi san, thank you a lot.


Many thanks to YOU, Sakuo san!


Anonymous said...


aki tatsu hi uroba ni gin o uzume-keri

The day autumn began
I had a cavity in my tooth
filled with silver.

Ryuunosuke, trans. Ueda

.. .. ..

the dentist--
all his ten fingers
and thumbs in my mouth

Laura Bell, from Higginson's "Haiku World"

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the culture lessons...
not being Japanese.... they complete my understanding of many Haiku


Gabi Greve said...

ha mo motanu kuchi ni kuwaete tsugiho kana

his toothless mouth
holds it...
the branch for grafting

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. Lanoue)

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

hagatame wa neko ni katarete warai keri

at Tooth-Hardening
I have to laugh --
beaten by my own cat

Issa became toothless in 1811, the year before he moved back to his hometown to live. At the time he was forty-eight by western counting. This hokku appears in a collection of posthumously collected works edited by Issa's follower Kijo, so it comes from sometime late in Issa's life, when he was completely without teeth, although, as he wrote in one hokku, his gums were as good as anyone's.

Tooth-Hardening is the name of a ceremonial meal that was usually eaten on one of the first three days of the lunar new year and sometimes again in the sixth lunar month. Food such as hard, round rice cakes, large daikon radishes, salted sweetfish, Citrus tachibana, and sour oranges were served, since chewing them was believed to harden people's teeth. And hardening the teeth was believed to contribute to longevity, so the meal was also a prayer for long life. Issa seems to have been holding a playful contest with his cat to see who could eat the most tooth-hardening food, and the cat has clearly won. Issa's laugh, however, is still in excellent condition, and it must have begun before the meal even started.

Chris Drake