The Rice Cake Pounding Event in Nishikujo Bonds its Community
Sticky, fluffy and chewy rice cakes (mochi ) are everyone’s favourite food in winter.
A small town in Osaka, Nishikujo, held their rice cake (mochi) pounding event for 2019.
Just two train stations away from Universal Studios Japan, there is a small town where nostalgia is still alive. This town is called Nishikujo. Nishikujo seems like a normal small town anywhere else in regional Japan.
What differentiates Nishikujo from other towns, however, is its heartwarming community. The rice cake (mochi) pounding event has been held for more than a decade in order to pass down the tradition to children today. It used to be an annual winter event for every family in Japan but it has become quite rare to see rice cake pounding events these days.
“I got up at 5 today” said a lady from the neighborhood. Actually, the people of Nishikujo started preparing the rice a day before with an impressive amount about 60kg (approx. 132lbs) white rice. This is obviously a big and important event for this town.
The Process of Making Mochi
Rice cakes look like a very simple dish, but a lot of effort is required to make them sticky and smooth.
The first step is to make the glutinous rice absorb water. That’s why Nishikujo people started preparing for the event the day before. It takes quite some time.
The next key process of making the silky smooth rice cake is tirelessly crushing the grains of rice and pounding them as strong as possible with wooden pestles while the rice is still hot. It might look like easy work, but it is actually hard to make a rhythmical and strong sound like Nishikujo people do.
Small children from Nishikujo also helped pound the rice cake with the big and heavy wooden pestles in their small hands.
The rhythmical sound of pounding rice cakes boosted the excitement of the children, their excited screams never once stopped during the event.
Beside the rice cake pounding, another important process of making yummy rice cakes is rolling. The rice cakes, pounded to be fluffy and smooth, are passed onto Nishikujo women who roll them into balls. This process seems easy, but it is not. Rolling rice cake requires professional technique. It is very hard to roll the dough without wrinkles on the beautiful snow-white rice cake board.
Prides of the Town and Tradition
“It’s never been perfect” said the chairman of the Nishikujo town association. The event has been carried out for more than a decade, since he became the chairman. “Even this morning, we started later than we expected” he continued “But it is fun! The rice cake pounding event used to be our tradition and we want to pass it down to our children in Nishikujo.”
Indeed many children from the neighborhood joined and enjoyed making their own mochi and eating it. This event was not only about making rice cakes, but it connects the community without any generation, gender or even nationality barriers.