Jan 7

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the YA fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Mochi on Getto

It’s the New Year, and in Japan that means its time for mochi!   Mochi is a Japanese treat made from pounded rice.  While mochi is now eaten throughout the year, it’s a favorite tradition during  the New Year’s season.  It’s generally served as a stuffed dumpling with fillings varying by region, taste, and tradition.  On the left is a sweet bean filled mochi served on a getto leaf in Okinawa.

More on Mochi

In Japan, a lot of events have their origins in times when most villager’s diets consisted of very simple food.  A long time ago, when rice was used as a currency, most Japanese only got to eat rice on special occasions.  A condensed rice treat then, would have more calories, and be even more special.  Eating mochi on new years “to ensure health in the new year” was almost literal.  It was like a version of ancient Japanese powerbar.  One Japanese story, Momotaro, tells of the young peach boy offering rice based treats to ensure help in a quest.  Such legends show the how the traditions came to be.  Today mochi is still an import part of New Year’s celebrations.  It forms the centerpiece for the offering at many shrines.

Mochi Bowl

Mochi takes time, energy, and to really do it right, community.  All of these things tie into most Japanese celebrations.  The act of creating and eating mochi brings people together for a shared experience, while also acting as an offering for the town’s, family’s, or individual’s ancestors.

Unfortunately, mochi has a dark side as well.  Every year, several people are hospitalized due to their consumption of the sticky treat and often a few die.  Be careful!

To learn about how mochi is made visit MoreThingsJapanese.com

As a special thank you to all my readers, followers, and friends I have released the first of the Jitsugen Samurai Diaries as a free ebook. Checkout The Tanner’s Daughter on Smashwords.

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