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Performed by Mitoshiro-kai,
 a group for conserving Japanese traditional mochitsuki, rice cake punding, Tokyo




MOTCHITSUKI (Rice Cake Pounding)

In ancient Japan , rice was a special valuable food used only for special occasions and holidays. Each grain of rice, in shinto tradition symbolizes a human soul (tamashii), so pounded rice cakes represent millions of souls. When the community pounds the rice, each person can reflect on the gods' blessings and over the events of the previous year. Pounding and handling of rice is a self purifying act. The shinto priest (kannushi) offers the pounded rice cakes to the gods on behalf of the entire community.

In Japanese folk tradition rabbits, living on the moon produce mochi with mallets and mortars. The legend is based on the tradition to identify the markings of the moon as a rabbit pounding mochi. In a story Buddha places a rabbit to the moon as payment for a favour in which rabbit voluntarily gives himself as food for one of Buddha's hungry friends.








Usually rice cake (mochi) is essential to the New Year's celebration (oshogatsu).

Mochi means rice cake and tsuki (tsuku) to pound mochi. Mochitsuki begins the day before, with the washing of the sweet glutinous rice (mochigome) and leaving it to soak overnight. Next morning the mochigome is ready to be steamed in the wooden steaming frames (seiro). Three or four seiro are stacked one on top of the other and placed over a kettle of boiling water.

After the rice is cooked, it is dumped into the mortar (usu), made from a wood stump, stone or concrete form. The hot cooked rice in the usu is pounded with a wooden mallet (kine). An essential participant in the pounding is the person assisting who quickly darts his or her hand into the usu and turns the rice before the next rhythmic pound.

The smooth, consistent mass of mochi is turned onto a cloth or paper covered table, already spread with a thin layer of sweet rice flour (mochiko). This makes the sticky mass easier to handle. You can add mochi to dishes, dip it sweet sauces and grill it, or put sweets inside like red bean or strawberries. Japanese green tea (macha) is quite bitter, so the tea is usually served with a sweet mochi. While bean filling of mochi (azuki) gives a sweet flavour, the plain ones too, have a flavour.















Once upon a time, a monkey, a rabbit, and a fox lived together as friends. During the day they frolicked on the mountain; at night they went back to the forest. As the years passed Indra, the Lord of Heaven became curious and wanted to see if rumours of their friendship were true. He went to them disguised as an old wanderer, "I have travelled through mountains and valleys and I am weak and tired," he stated. "Could you give me something to eat?"

Immediately, the monkey departed to gather nuts. After returning, he presented the food to the wanderer; the fox brought an offering from his fish trap in the river. The rabbit ran through the fields, searching desperately for something to offer. When he returned with nothing, the monkey and the fox teased him endlessly. Depressed and discouraged, the little rabbit asked the monkey to gather some wood and the fox to set fire to it. Suddenly, the little rabbit said, "Please eat me," and threw himself into the flames.

The wanderer, honoured and humbled by the sacrifice, began to weep. Then, he proclaimed, "All of you deserve praise, for your offerings were kind and thoughtful. This little rabbit, however, has displayed true selflessness with his sacrifice." As the other animals watched, he revealed himself as a god, restoring the rabbit to his original form and taking the little body to heaven to be buried in the palace of the moon.





























Mochi soup (ozoni) is cooked with vegetables and other foods. The ingredients may vary according to various regions in Japan , but the essential mochi is always present. Ozoni is part of the first meal to insure a happy new year.









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