Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mochitsuki - New Year's Japanese Tradition

Hawai'i is great because there are so many different cultures and traditions that get passed down from generation to generation. Mochitsuki, also known as mochi pounding, is a Japanese annual tradition that happens during the New Year. Family and friends of all ages get together for this fun-filled, hard-working celebration. I am very honored to be a part of this Komenaka family tradition every year.

First, rice is washed and soaked overnight. Right before the pounding starts, it gets put into this wooden steamer called a "seiro." 
Next, the rice gets dumped into a stone pot.

Once the rice is inside, it must be quickly "grinded" and mushed together before it stars cooling. Usually it takes three people for this step.
Next the pounding process begins. Anyone of all-ages can do this part. Two people get into a rhythm and take turns pounding the rice until it becomes a nice, smooth mochi texture.
Yes, even I can do it :p

The last stage of the pounding process is a one-man show where there is a "turn" between every pound. The turner is very important in the whole mochi pounding process to keep everyone consistent and on the right page. He is kind of like the "team captain." He also says when the mochi is done and let's everyone know when they should stop.
The mochi is then sent to get cut and shaped.
The size of the mochi depends on how it will be eaten. If in ozoni (mochi soup), it will be smaller. If to eat plain it can be larger. They are even stuffed with an (black bean) or even peanut butter.
Also enjoy fried with a little bit of sugar, shoyu, or even butter. Akemashite omedetogozaimasu (Happy New Year)!

Photo credits to Ryan Kawamoto and Travis Okimoto for covering this special occasion