Monday, December 21, 2009


Louise here,

Last Wednesday, instead of going to karate practice in the morning as we usually do, Erica and I accompanied Arakawa Sensei to the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten to see how to make mochi, (rice cakes).

Rice is the staple food of the Japanese, and is very important to their way of life. According to Boyé Lafayette De Mente, in the book “Japan Unmasked: The character and culture of the Japanese” (2005, Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing), the methods of wet-rice farming have shaped their culture significantly, by requiring group cooperation and self-sacrifice.

Nowadays, most mochi are made by machines in factories, but we saw group work in action at the kindergarten, where the parents and teachers carried out the traditional way of making mochi. (Also see Wikipedia's article about mochi)

Pounding za rice, yoisho!

Rice was steamed in pots over a fire, then put in a large wooden mortar called an usu. People took turns pounding the rice using large wooden mallets, called kine, while the rest (including the kindergarten kids) cheered them on in time with the strikes. The rice was kept moist with hot water by a brave soul wiping and turning it with his hand between strikes. All the kids had a go pounding as well, though using smaller kine and helped by the parents.

When the rice was smooth, stuck together and well mooshed, it was taken out of the usu and another group of people separated it into small cakes. These were rolled in sweet soy powder (kinako), and were then ready to be eaten.

Making cakes

I had a go at pounding the rice, and I can see why it requires a group effort, because it was rather tiring. It helped having people cheering me on though, and it was fun being a part of this traditional event.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Louise!

Hope you have a lovely Xmas.
We miss you at the dojo.

Michele and Katie.