Ohagi and Botamochi are the same things or different things?
Centering on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the traditional weeklong seasonal event “Ohigan (お彼岸)” is annually held in Japan.
Ohigan is a Buddhist event held only by the Japanese sects, during which we have the traditional custom of visiting the graves of family and relatives as well as holding a memorial service for our ancestors.
Ohagi and Botamochi
When it comes to the food offering to the Buddha during the 7 day period event, “Ohagi (おはぎ)” and “Botamochi (ぼたもち)” are famous. Both are “Mochigashi (餅菓子)” sweets, so their main ingredient is rice.
They are round, somewhat sticky rice cakes made by steaming and lightly pounding a mixture of glutinous and non-glutinous rice, and their plain rice dough is entirely covered with sweet red bean paste called “Anko (餡子)“.
In a nutshell, Ohagi and Botamochi are basically the same things, but why does the Japanese confection have these different names?
Actually, the reason comes from the name of seasonal flowers. The name of Ohagi is said to be derived from the flower name “Hagi (萩)” which is the Japanese word for “bush clover”.
Since the bush clover Hagi comes into bloom in September, the Anko-covered Mochigashi served during the autumn Ohigan tends to be called Ohagi. By the way, the word “O (お)” in Ohagi is a Japanese prefix to make a polite expression.
Meanwhile, Botamochi used to be called Botanmochi, which is a compound word composed of “Botan (牡丹)”, the Japanese word for “peony”, and “Mochi (もち)“.
So the name of Botamochi comes from the spring flower Botan or peony, and thus the Anko-covered Mochigashi served during the spring Ohigan tends to be called Botamochi.