Getting ready for the new year

WAILUA — Ed Kawamura Sr. said the calendar is messed up this year.

“Christmas is Sunday,” he said. “And then New Year’s is the next Sunday.”

For the Japanese, Hawaii tradition calls for New Year’s preparations, including mochi-making, to take place between Christmas and New Year’s. Based on the 2016 calendar, many families pulled out the usu, or stone mortars, created kine, and celebrated mochi tsuki, or mochi-making over the weekend — a week before Christmas.

Sean Osuna, a vendor at the Kealia Farm farmer’s market, said it’s alright to start New Year’s preparations from after Dec. 13.

“I’ve got kadomatsu, some made from Black Bamboo which I grow in Wailua,” Osuna said. “But I won’t be selling them until after Dec. 13.”

The Kawamura home in Wailua bustled with activity as a lot of people collected for mochi tsuki, the traditional style of making mochi. The gathering of people for the laborious task of creating mochi is one of the reasons the practice became popular in Hawaii as communities gathered for fellowship while processing the special rice which has been soaked for several days ahead of mochi tsuki.

“This is the league of nations,” Kawamura said. “Look at all the people here. Junior (Ed Kawamura Jr.) even has an exchange student from Japan. We’ve had all kinds of people come to make mochi. Last year we had people from Mexico.”

Lily Kawamura, Ed Sr.’s wife, ladled out her “German style” nishime, inquiring whether or not the intended diner wanted boiled egg.

“We need to be innovative,” said Casie Kawamura. “This year Aunty Leesha (Kawamura) is using fresh peanuts, honey, sesame seed and fresh fruit. We got to try something new since we’ve already used peanut butter and coconut.”

The new variations of fillings for the mochi are in addition to the traditional azuki-bean filling, and there are mochi with no filling which are used for the kazani, or mochi offered to the gods for blessings for a prosperous year.

Austin Sadamitsu was ready with his own 2-year-old sized kine.

“He was looking for his mallet when he got here,” said Terry Philips. “They made a special one that is just his size. Look at him. He wants to pound mochi like the other men.”

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