WAILUA HOMESTEADS — Mayor Derek Kawakami was tasked with learning a new aspect of making mochi Sunday during the mochi making, or mochitsuki, at the Ed Kawamura home in Wailua Homesteads.
Derek and his family have been doing mochi with the Kawamura ohana long before he was elected mayor, and did not let his new office keep him away from the annual New Year’s tradition.
“He pounded mochi earlier,” said Glenn Mizumoto, one of the helpers in the kitchen. “Today, he’s learning another job. He’s working with Alan Okuhara to learn how to turn the rice.”
Mochi making is the process of turning uncooked mochi rice into the familiar morsel, the task involving the pounding of the cooked rice in a mortar, or usu, using special wooden mallets called kine. During this pounding process, the developing mochi needs to be turned so the mochi comes out uniformly smooth. Water needs to be added so the mochi does not get hard.
The mochitsuki brings together a number of people, including family, friends and community members who gather to collectively create mochi, including the kagami sets which are placed as New Year decoration and believed to bring good fortune.
“This is an international event,” Kawamura said. “The Mexican is staying home this year, but we have people from all over coming to help. Mochi really brings people together.”
Among those visiting at Sunday’s event, Tanya Ramsey of Washington had her daughters and a visiting friend getting an education while creating the New Year’s morsel.
“My dad Wally Isoda still lives here,” Ramsey said. “We try to get back here every couple of years to visit. This time, we have Anina Elkholy, formerly of Egypt but now living in Washington coming along with my daughter.”
Leesha Kawamura’s exchange student from Japan, Masa Tsunekawa, also helped inject humor into the day that featured people flowing in and out of the house, enjoying generous helpings of refreshment that also included ozoni, a soup using mochi that is traditionally enjoyed at New Year’s.
“Work,” Kawakami said while turning the hot blob of rice. “It’s all work — pounding or turning — the best part is eating.”