Saturday, February 9, 2013

Omochitsuki お持ちつき : Japanese for 'Let's Help Five-Year-Olds Pound Rice With a Giant Mallet'

Every Japanese elementary school has a giant wooden mortar and a hugely heavy mallet for this fun activity called Omochitsuki おもちつき, which is translated as rice pounding. Omochi is cooked rice that is so banged up that it resembles dough, and my daughter says that's her favorite food. Yeah, I know ... did she even consider chocolate? This beginning-of-the-year activity is fun because everyone gets a turn at pounding the rice with the sledgehammer thing, regardless of age. And you end up with an edible product. Bonus! When I lived in Japan, my host family took me out to the grandma's town in the countryside where they cooked the rice in stacks of bamboo steamers over an open fire for the event. When it was done, the whole neighborhood took turns pounding the rice, but with two people doing it at the same time with some kind of rhythm. A little nerve-wracking, but it was fun.