Friday, January 21, 2005

Mochi-tsuki, Dec 2004

Finally, after about a month I've gotten around to preparing some pics from last year's mochi-tsuki - a day of making Japanese sticky rice the traditional way. It's one of Misaki's family traditions, and for me a great day outside pounding rice with huge wooden mallets, warming ourselves over fires and finally chilling with some beers.

Rice Steamer
The is the base of the rice steamer boiling up some water.

Rice Steamer
The rice is placed in bamboo steamers, not unlike those used for Chinese yum-cha, and stacked above the boiling water. The most favoured position in the yard is directly behind the opening to the steamer's fire.

Stone Bowl
A huge stone bowl is used to grind and pound the rice into sticky goodness. Two large wooden mallets are used simultaneously with ninja-like precision by any two people able to heft them.

Stone Bowl
Having already been crushed and ground together, some rice is seen about to recive one of many blows from the wooden mallets as it is slowly coverted into mochi.

Showing fine form, one team expertly focuses their ki and conducts it efficiently into the steaming rice with their wooden implements of culinary weaponry.

Between each deft stroke of the mallets, one person, the only one who carries the knowledge, skillfully turns the rice to avoid it melding with the stone under their amazing wooden force.

The foreigners make a valiant effort in a guesture which is appreciated by the local veterens. While their form may be lacking, their enthusiastic spirit could not be faulted.

As the rice achieves a stickier consistancy it steams from the heat and friction and requires the practiced hand of an expert to keep it from being lost to the stone walls of the pounding bowl.

The masters give an impressive performace. This grueling ritual was repeated as many as twenty times over the course of the brisk yet sunny morning.

Tyler and Ace
Tyler and Ace were sitting in awe of the spectacle which they observed safely from outside the range of steaming water and hot molten rice debris being flung from the pounding pit.

Once the mochi making festivities have drawn to an end, the rice steamers are replaced by a grating and the oyster feast commences. This too is part of the anual event, but I have yet to determine if this custom is unique to our family or common to all Japanese observers of the ancient sticky rice custom.

Once we've eaten our fill of shelled delicacies and the sun has retreated below the horizon, with our stomachs warm and content we break open the beer and sit in quiet appreciation of the glowing flames and the warm tiredness in our joints and muscles from a job well done.

The finished product - Mochi.
Enough for an army no less. While there is an abense of images here depicting mochi being either formed into cakes, or being eaten which is an art in itself, this year's mochi-tsuki I'm sure not will not dissapoint. Indeed, I for one am looking forward to it already.

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