Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mochitsuki: Japanese New Year Party

It all started on a day last November or so, when Colin and Jiayun came over to our house. We could hear the chainsaw going in the woods behind the house, but all we knew was that Colin was making something in Dad's workshop... out of a tree from our yard...

Fast forward to January 3, which was "Christmas Morning" in the Wilson/Olson household, since all of us traveled over the holidays. We did our usual thing--the "children" run around the corner to see what "Santa" left in their stockings... and there was this gigantic wooden hammer.

Mochitsuki, which is the pounding of "sweet" rice to make mochi (rice cakes), is traditionally done during the New Year's festivities in Japan. No one cooks for 3 days (January 1-3), so the rice is prepared as mochi to be served in a number of different ways. To pound the mochi, you need an usu (hollowed out log) and a kine (pronounced keenay--gigantic wooden hammer). You put rice in the usu and bash it with the kine until it is smooth. Meanwhile, someone (usually the wife) kneads the rice dough and keeps it moist so it doesn't stick. Incidentally, the usu was hidden under the Christmas tree skirt.

Anyway, we went straight out to try the thing out. Mom and Granddad watched from a safe distance.

Later on, Keith levitated the finished mochi balls.

Mochitsuki is a communal event... so we decided to have a party! I prepared a lot of food: ozouni soups, nimono (stewed vegetables), and various toppings for the mochi. We got the waffle iron out to make "moffles" too.

The first batch of mochi was pretty sticky. Or we didn't do it right. Or something.

Then an "expert" showed up! Hooray, Hiromi-san coached us on our mochi technique!

I made daifuku (mochi stuffed with sweet red bean paste) with some of the girls from Talk Time.

Meanwhile, everyone was enjoying the food.

It was so much fun that we decided to do it again on Sunday after church! That's our Japanese church, by the way.

Everyone had a chance with the kine.

Gender roles reversed??

Back to normal...

Many hands make light work.

The parties are over now (including Granddad's 90th birthday party today!) and the usu and kine are hanging out in the sun-room doing a great job as a plant stand.

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