Ed Kawamura continues to make mochi using the traditional usu, or mortar, and wooden mallets known as kine in Japan.
Mochi is usually made between Christmas and New Year’s, and involves a lot of people gathering to get the process done. Kine are created a few days before the actual mochitsuki, or mochi making, and the rice is washed and soaked a day, or two ahead of the mochitsuki.
The cooked mochi rice is pounded with the kine, and once done, the mochi is formed by another crew. The mochi can be plain or filled with a variety of fillings. At the Kawamura household, these include the traditional azuki bean paste, and more exotic peanut butter, and even strawberries.
Although no clear explanation is given on why mochi is eaten as part of the New Year’s celebration, one explanation is to obtain the power of the gods that resides in the mochi. It is also believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.