No household in Japan is without mochi—or pounded rice—on New Year’s Day because it is an offering that is traditionally presented to Kami (gods) and one’s ancestors on festive occasions. Originally, the mochi that was presented to Kami was then divided up and given to each person to eat to ensure good health and fortune.
That’s why we hold our Mochitsuki at MBT as close to New Year’s Day as we can.
In the old days in Japan, each family made their own mochi using an usu (mortar) made from large hollowed-out tree trunks. The other traditional tools included the seiro (rice-steaming boxes) and kine (large mallets).
At MBT, we celebrate Mochitsuki as a social gathering, which is both fun and draws upon the strength of many rice pounders. We still take turns pounding the rice with the old-style kine in a piston-like pattern. But we also employ electric rice pounders to help produce 450 pounds of rice that, after pounding, gets shaped into small balls by dozens of participants—from first-timers to seasoned veterans, children 12* and older to not-so-young kids-at heart. (*Typically on the Sunday following Mochitsuki we have a special children’s mochitsuki starting at 10:30 am where children of all ages are welcome to participate).