Mochitsuki is a Japanese tradition following the rice harvest from late October to the New Year.
Mochi sounds like to have or to hold so it is supposed to bring good fortune. There are records indicating that this tradition was already practiced during the Heian period (794-1185). It is said that at the time, people wished to have good teeth for the New Year because by January 1st, the mochi had hardened and it was difficult to eat.
Mochitsuki requires a specific variety of rice: mochigome, a short grain japonica glutinous.
The night before the event the rice is rinsed and soaked overnight to soften the grain.
In the early morning, the rice is steamed in what we call Seiro, square wood baskets which are stacked over a kettle.
Afterwards, the rice is placed into a Usu, a large mortal so the work can begin. The rice is pounded with a kine, a wooden mallet.
It takes at least two people to make the mochi dough at this stage. One is pounding the rice and the other is turning the paste and adding hot water. It takes time and a lot of pounding to achieve the desire result: the dough needs to be smooth, and shiny.
Following this step, a team gathers around a table:
Mochiko, a rice flour, is applied on the table surface to reduce the dough stickiness.
One person cuts and distributes pieces of dough; and everyone starts making flattened bun-shape and when the tray is filled, it is left outside so the mochi can cool down.
Making mochi is a 1,000 years old tradition.
It appears that younger generations seem detached from the traditions of their ancestors.
Traditions are important as they brings families together and those events reinforce the value of the community.
I would like to recommend this event to everyone who is interested to learn more about Japanese traditions. This event took place at the Zenshuji temple in Little Tokyo. I am not a Buddhist or shinto but I like to help my friends when they need help.