Mochi Pounding

Mochi Pounding Tradition

The beginning of the mochi pounding tradition began in Japan and done mainly in festivals, but when Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii the tradition became part of the culture there. Instead of in festivals it became an activity done with close family and friends. Mochi is made with pounded rice and is often used in deserts. Mochi pounding is done before the New Year in order to have okasane, a shaped piece of mochi, ready to place by the door for good luck in the coming year. The mochi is made by taking rice and soaking it and then steaming it to make it soft. The rice is then pounded by a mallet, traditionally called a kine, in a bowl shaped stone called an usu. The usu is heated with hot rags first in order to keep the rice paste hot. Each family traditionally has their own rhythm used to pound the rice. Generally it is the men’s job to pound the rice into mochi while the women are inside preparing the ground up rice into the final product. While the mochi is still hot one woman will pull the mochi into approximately the right size and the rest of the women will shape the mochi. The first batch is made into the okasane, but the rest is eaten. Traditionally the mochi is flavored with red bean paste, but chocolate and peanut butter flavoring has become popular as well.

The reason that this tradition is considered good luck might have something to doing something that requires a lot of effort as something to show going into the New Year. Putting it at their door could be related to leaving the old year and moving into the new one. While most people no longer believe that pounding mochi to make okasane is necessary for good luck, the tradition has become a way to connect with family. It brings the family together to do something together and enjoy the fruits of their labor. This distinguishes the Hawaiian tradition from the Japanese one which it came from.