Pounding mochi to ring in the new year

Great importance is attached to the New Year season in Japan.  We’re happily ushering in the Year of the Snake at the ELC! There are traditional New Year’s foods that are eaten to give strength, give good luck, good health and long life. One traditional food prepared at New Year’s time is mochi.

To pound mochi, sweet rice is soaked overnight then steamed until soft. The rice is placed in the usu (big, deep bowl). One or two people pound the mochi while another person turns the mochi in the usu between the pounds and sprinkles some water on it. When the mochi is smooth, it is placed on a table and shaped into flat balls with the hand.

We are very lucky at the ELC to have the support of many parents, led by Yuka Quantrille, Miho Druker, Miho Neely, Sachiyo Freund and Noriko Murai Yeskel, and the Azabu Juban Neighborhood Association, so that all of our children have the opportunity to pound mochi.  They dress up in their happi coats and hachimaki (headbands) and pound the rice.  It is a wonderful photo opportunity for parents and the children are rewarded for their hard work by being able to each the mochi that they have pounded.

We had a great time introducing some of our children to this holiday tradition and carrying it on with others.  It’s what our Japan study is all about—real, authentic experiences with the culture and language of Japan.  You can bet that the kids will remember the words for mochi, happi coats and hachimaki and many will develop a real taste for mochi! (Judy Beneventi, ELC Director)