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Sakura & Ichiro

Hashimoto Miki

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The Japanese have a custom of offering mochi (rice cakes) to the deity of the coming year's harvest, or toshigami, in the New Year. Traditionally, neighbors would get together to make the mochi at the end of the year before. Few families today own the big mortars called usu that are used to pound the rice, but mochi-tsuki (rice-cake-making) events are often held at elementary schools and local children's groups.

Mochi are made by pounding and kneading steamed sticky rice until it becomes one big lump. The lump is then divided up into round pieces or squares. Some popular ways of eating mochi are: coating it with anko, a bean paste made of boiled and sweetened adzuki beans; covering it with sugared kinako, a sweet powder made of roasted soybeans; and dipping it in soy sauce and wrapping it with nori (dried seaweed).