Mochi: Pounding Away the Day

Mochi on trays
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Mochi: Pounding Away the Day


Ahh, the sounds of mochi getting pounded to a sticky ricey-dough pulp. And even more exciting than hearing the OOSHA OOSHA OOSHA’s is watching them OOSHA OOSHA OOSHA!

Mochi-tsuki (mochi pounding) is a traditional Japanese activity that made its way to Hawaii and is believed to bring in good fortune for the new year. It involves a lot of physical strength with the steady rise and fall of a big wooden hammer, or kine. Men, women and children do this while taking turns hitting the freshly-steamed mochi-rice, which patiently awaits its new year massage in a stone or wooden basin called the usu.

After a few minutes of beating, the rice is flipped and flopped into one huge sticky ball and then pinched off into smaller pieces. While there are literally dozens of different mochi variations, the most popular ways to personalize mochi would be to coat it with roasted soy flour or fill it with azuki (a sweet bean paste).As quickly as it’s pounded, the mochi gets stuffed with extra sweet goodies.

mochi pounding
Mochi pounding requires muscle

Many families in Hawaii practice mochi-tsuki, making an entire day’s event out of it. Aunties, uncles, cousins, grandchildren gather to pound away the day. Several Japanese churches and groups, like Tenrikyo Hawaii, offer public demonstrations for visitors and locals to take part in. VIDEO: See how it’s made. Tenrikyo Hawaii takes a whack at the rice-dough to make mochi.

According to them, rice held a special place in ancient Japan that was only used on certain occasions or holidays. Each grain of rice symbolized a tamashi (human soul), and as they pounded those grains together, they could reflect on the past, present and future. They, therefore, considered the act of pounding and handling rice to be a self-reflective time.

If you aren’t able to see a traditional mochi pounding in Hawaii, then pick up a pack from almost any local grocery store. And as you sink your teeth into the gooey goodness, keep in mind just how many OOSHA’s it took to get to that level of savory greatness.

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