Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023 |
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WAILUA — “Hit mo’ hard,” Ed Kawamura urged the group of international pounders on Sunday.
Paco Espinosa of Mexico was among the group of three young men using kine, or specially created wooden mallets, to pound steamed mochi rice in a stone mortar, or usu, at the annual mochitsuki, or mochi making, in preparation for New Year.
Mochi is one of the foods enjoyed on New Year’s Day, considered one of the significant holidays by the Japanese people.
The practice of enjoying mochi on New Year’s Day and other significant days arrived with the Japanese immigrants to Hawai‘i and has been adopted into the local lifestyle.
A similar scenario was taking place at the outdoor lanai of the Hanapepe Neighborhood Center where families had collected for mochitsuki as well as creating kadomatsu, or New Year’s decoration, while a baseball clinic unfolded at the neighboring Hanapepe Stadium.
Mochitsuki is usually an all-day event which requires many hands, long hours and physical labor, states the Japanese American National Museum website.
Despite the arduous process, mochitsuki brings together friends and family for fellowship and socializing.
Mochitsuki takes places a few days ahead of the actual mochi making. For example, Rep. Derek Kawakami, D-14th District, joined members of the Kawamura ‘ohana in creating kine at the M. Kawamura Farm Enterprises facility in Pua Loke earlier in the week.
The day before mochi making takes place, the mochi rice, or mochigome, is washed and left to soak overnight before being steamed in seiro, or steaming frames.
Once cooked, the rice is dumped into the usu, a wooden, or stone mortar, where it is pounded with the kine until it is smooth and shiny.
“You have to grind it like making bread,” Kawamura told the young group of pounders. “The young people need to learn how to make mochi the right way.”
Joining Kawakami and the Kawamura family was Espinosa of Mexico. Espinosa spent the holidays with the Kawamura ‘ohana where he experienced being Santa Claus during the Waimea Lighted Christmas Parade atop the Kawamura float.
“Don’t worry,” Kawamura said. “The picture is already with his sister in Mexico. I emailed it.”
Kawamura said he joined his two sons, Ed Kawamura Jr. and Daniel, in pounding out the first batch.
“That was at 7 this morning,” he said. “Now, it’s time for the young people to do this. I pass out the samples since the young ones are learning.”
Once the mochi reaches the proper consistency, the blob is transferred to a table where it is “cut” into smaller, more manageable morsels for eating.
Mochi, its sticky qualities symbolizing the binding together of family and friends, is enjoyed on New Year’s Day in ozoni, or a soup cooked with vegetables and other foods. It is eaten as the first meal of the New Year and is considered “necessary” for ensuring a happy New Year ahead.
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