Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pounded Rice and Ninja Elves

The holidays are just around the corner, and we've been preparing in style at school this past week.  One of the coolest events we held was the traditional mochisuki ceremony, a Japanese New Year's event where mochi, or pounded rice cakes, is made in the old, two-person team style by bashing the bejesus out of a pile of steamed, glutinous rice in a big mortar.

Mochi can be found all over Japan, especially during New Years.  If you come to this country, you will no doubt become acquainted with these glorious globs of glutinous goodness soon after your arrival.  The stuff is prepared and served in a variety of ways, from sweet to savory, and is definitely one of Japan's most unique foods (in fact, where we have the Man on the Moon, the Japanese think that there are two rabbits on the moon pounding mochi)!  You can read more about mochi here.

The PTA moms, who graciously sponsored the whole event, were on hand to serve tea and roll the large, freshly-pounded mochi blobs into small balls before serving them up to the students and teachers.  They had every kind of mochi available, from daifuku (mochi stuffed with anko sweet beans) and kinako (roasted mochi dipped into a mixture of soy sauce, water, and sugar) to serving it in a variety of soups!  Pictured below on the left is mochi in zoni soup (a broth with vegetables and chicken) and on the right is oshiruko, or sweet bean soup:

I even had a go at pounding mochi, despite my worries of taking the little old lady's hand clean off!!

If you can't get enough of this zani mochi-making, check out the video I took of two professionals in action:

This week was also the English Club クリスマス (Christmas) party...a riveting time if I do say so myself!

We stuffed ourselves silly with delectable treats...

...sang Christmas carols and opened presents...

...and had a special appearance by Rudolph and Santa themselves:

The best ninja-esque Santa I've seen yet:

Christmas Eve will be the last day of classes, and incidentally, the climax of the "Japanese Christmas Frenzy" which began long ago, about two weeks before Halloween.  This is the day when all of the fried chicken and cakes get eaten, all the presents are given, and all the romantic dates are had (yes, that's right, Christmas is a romantic holiday here)!

Ahhh...the holidays in Japan...

1 comment:

Katharine said...

THAT's FUN!!!!! I just wish that we could have gotten you Christmas penpal letters before Christmas. SAD :( I really like the Santa and Reindeer.