We kicked off our new year with a traditional family blessing ceremony and mochi pounding at the Honbushin International Center. What a family-friendly gem of an event!
It was held from 9:00am-3:00pm, but when we arrived at 9:00am there was already a considerable amount of people in line to register for the mochi pounding. You register by family/group (donation of $10~; or a donation of more than $20 will get you a “thank you pass” – more on this later) and receive a number and tickets for complimentary bowl of ozoni. We were #68. Then you just have to pass the time until your turn.
Nomz had fun playing in the (free) bounce house with all of her friends.
And of course, we ate all kinds of mochi: our complimentary bowl of ozoni (fresh mochi in hot broth), kinako ($2; ground soy bean powder & sugar), anko ($2; with sweet azuki bean paste), in tonjiru ($3; in pork miso soup), and yakimochi ($2; grilled with shoyu and nori).
There were other items like teriyaki beef sticks, shave ice, oden, and musubi, but the main food items for sale were mochi served various ways. There was also a market selling fresh vegetables grown right on Honbushin grounds.
As for the wait, be forewarned – it’s incredibly long so it’s best to come prepared to spend the day. There’s plenty of food and live entertainment to enjoy. We arrived at 9:00am, but it wasn’t until nearly 1:00pm that we finally got our turn at making mochi. A donation of more than $20 will get you a “thank you” pass which gives you priority access in line – we will definitely do this next year. The logistics of this event makes the long line inevitable – mochi rice must be freshly steamed, and each family receives a generous amount of rice which they are responsible for pounding from start to finish (with the help of friendly volunteers) and in turn, can take the whole batch home!
The last time I pounded mochi was in preschool in Japan, and nowadays even in Japan it’s rare to find an opportunity to make mochi using the authentic usu (wooden vessel) and kine (very heavy wooden mallet). It was SO MUCH FUN!! The volunteers instructed us to first knead the mochi with a thinner mallet, then showed us how to rhythmically pound it, taking turns in a circle as a family. Nomz and I quickly got tired, so D of course carried us to the finish line with his super strength. The experience was definitely worth the wait.
After the whole process (which took about 10 minutes), volunteers helped us roll and shape the mochi to pack in a take-home container. It was about 5 pounds of mochi total. Fresh, warm, soft, pillowy and gooey, heavenly mochi. Now that I’ve had freshly pounded mochi, I’ve been spoiled. The packaged supermarket kind is just not gonna do it for me anymore…
After all the mochi we had at the event, we went home and enjoyed more still-warm mochi with butter & shoyu, with cheddar cheese, and with peanut butter & jelly. The rest went into the freezer, sure to only last for a short while.
We are already looking forward to next year!