Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pounding mochi

Every weekend it’s pretty busy in Senri Chuo and often some kind of event is going on like a dance festival with hundreds of teenagers in entertaining costumes, or another famous Japanese person is handing out signatures and performing on the Selcy stage.
These things can get loud and are usually very audible in my classroom making teaching and hearing my shy students’ replies rather difficult. Today class invaded by noises from outside again and in my break I found out there was yet another event going on. What the even was about I have no idea but I did find an interesting group of men pounding on rice in an effort to make mochi (rice cake).
These days they can make mochi with modern pieces of machinery but the traditional mochi-pounding ceremony, a.k.a. mochitsuki, is still very popular and very interesting to watch:
Japanese rice is pounded with wooden mallets in a traditional mortar, and usually two people will alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. They need to work in a steady rhythm or they may accidently pound on something other than rice. The two person routine is scary to watch, because it looks like the turning guy’s hand will get pounded by the other guy every so many seconds. The guys I saw at work today just pounded for a while and only turned the mochi during pounding breaks, which is a lot safer for them and a lot less stressful for us to watch.

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