Monday, February 2, 2009

Omochi Pounding at the ELC

We are very lucky, I think, that we moved to Japan at this time of the year. The Early Learning Center (ELC) of the ASIJ starts their Japanese culture unit at this time of year, so we are all getting introduced to Japanese culture through Sam's school. 

At the New Year holiday, the Japanese traditionally eat mochi rice
treats, a special dish made from omochi rice that is cooked, and then pounded with mallets in a large wooden pestle until it is smooth and gooey and sticky.

This past week as part of the New Year festivities, the ELC students had an omochi rice pounding day.  A couple of men from the neighborhood of Azabu-juban came in to demonstrate and show the children the rice pounding. It is a workout! These strong men pounded rice for over 3 hours. It's the man working in the wooden basin that I admire - he takes warm water and moves the omochi rice with his hand in between every mallet smack. But they have a rhythm and he never got his hand pounded.

Then the mochi rice is pulled into balls, and served three different ways: with powdered soybeans and sugar, with soy sauce and nori (seaweed), and with sweet red bean paste. It's not bad, but the texture takes some getting used to. Raw bread dough comes to mind - it is very chewy and elastic!

The children were dressed in "happi" - festival short coats -  and headbands. Then they counted in Japanese, "Ichi, ni, san," and then they all had a turn with a mallet. Then some of the parents gave it a try! Sam did a great job pounding, I'm not so sure how I did - that mallet is heavy.
And those of you who know Sam remember that he is the pickiest of my kids as far as food goes. Well, he ate every piece of mochi rice on his plate and asked for seconds on the ones coated with soybean powder and sugar! Go figure. I guess if you present something in a fun way, he'll try it. Or just coat it in sugar!


  1. Does Sam's hair look ridiculously long???? You should see Nick! He has an appointment tomorrow, thank goodness. I am hoping that Nick will take on the haircut duty in Japan - Chris asked me to cut his hair in desperation last week, and I did it. He doesn't look bad, but I don't have clippers - and I don't think my heart could take it if I had to cut Sam's hair. Can you imagine me with a pair of scissors near his ears with the amount of wiggling that child does? - pam