Mochi and Snow
Cozy and cold makes this New Year tradition even more memorable
On January 18, staff and residents of Azabu Gardens happily braved the cold and gathered outside the front lobby to take part in a Japanese tradition, mochitsuki—pounding and eating mochi (rice cake). Falling snow provided the perfect backdrop for this popular social, family-fun event.
New residents in the building introduced themselves to one another and put on the happi (traditional straight-sleeved coat worn at festivals) supplied by Azabu Gardens. As the snow fell, residents new and old gathered around and watched as guests of all ages took part in the pounding. The sweet rice cake is traditionally pounded in a large wooden mortar called an usu, using a large hammer called a kine. Between each swing of the hammer, staff chanted “yoi-sho!” to the delight of everyone, especially the younger children.
Bundled up and smiling, many residents came out and socialized with their neighbors while enjoying a traditional Japanese activity. As the snow got heavier, even more people joined in. It was the perfect event to get to know some of the newer residents, and introductions and conversations could be heard over the pounding of the mochi. Many residents were new to Japan, so it was a great way to experience a new culture they were eager to learn about.
It was soon time to eat. There were many different toppings available, including yuzu jam, sweet bean, and even natto (fermented soy beans), which inspired curiosity among some of the newer residents and prompted them to give it a try. As you could tell from the sticky grins, chocolate and cocoa powder, strawberry, and whipped cream proved most popular with the children. As kids ran out into the snow, other guests took their mochi to the warm lobby, watching through the glass as friends and neighbors took part in the tradition.
Steam drifted from a vast tub of tonjiru (pork soup), carrying the comforting smell with it. And for the adults, there was hot sake and wine.
As the event came to a close, and the cold got the better of people, the residents started to disperse back to the warmth of their homes. Children and adults walked away, full of mochi and wearing their happi, taking with them new memories that they will be sure to remember for a long time.