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December 2000  

Mochi Tsuki 

By Yasuko (Ito) Kujiraoka
Portion of the article from the December 1994 issue of the Vista View

     With mochi-tsuki being a Japanese tradition, many people may wonder where this tradition began. Using steamed sweet rice and pounding it into a soft dough-like texture, mochi is shaped into small dumpling-like balls. Mochi-tsuki started as a Shinto ritual of not cooking for the first three days of the New Year, so that the kitchen can be blessed by the Shinto "kami "-god and so food had to be prepared to last the three days. Women were not to step into the kitchen, so the men had to make the mochi soup, ozoni, on New Year's Day. Now, mochi-tsuki is a very Japanese event with Temple members coming together to steam the rice, to pound it into the delicious dough and to shape them into the treats we eat.  The "white-ness" of the mochi reminds us of the purity of heart and intentions. The "okasane" is two mochis--one small mochi placed on top of a larger mochi with a small orange on the very top and it represents the purity of your mind and body for good health and heart. The okasane is placed near the obutsudan or in a room used frequently by the family on New YearÂ’s day. Joining in the mochi-tsuki is an experience in itself. Joining other men and women shaping mochi into the little balls, making an mochi and okasane and listening to the laughter from the stories being exchanged and the smiles with the white powder smudges on the faces and aprons are memories that make the year ending brighter with the new year coming.         

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