JACL’s “Mochi Madness”
Greets New Year with Fun Mochi Event Dec. 28th
wooden mallets slicing through the air, baseball bats mashing the
rice, deft hands patting the rice cakes flat, and 50 hungry mochi
makers all tasting the scrumptious treats in a traditional welcome
to the New Year at the Florin History Center on December 28th. The
“Mochi Madness” mochitsuki (sweet sticky rice cake making
event) and potluck social was organized by our Florin JACL youth
and family programs.
Madness” presented a unique opportunity to experience a great
cultural tradition, bring the community and generations together,
and celebrate the New Year in a fun way. More such excellent
get-togethers would be welcome.
“mochi master” Umeda, in charge of the cooking and pounding,
came especially well-prepared with 1930s family usu (granite
mortar stone), kine (wooden mallets) for pounding, and seiro
(steaming baskets). Experienced and inexperienced mochi-makers,
students and elders, all lined up to try their hand with the huge
wooden mallets. Several seasoned hands swung a pretty “mean”
kine including Bob Uyeyama, Sam Morishima, Bobby Horiuchi, and
John Nishida III. The college crew of Ben Staley, Jordan
Rodriguez, and Larry Nguyen really pitched in all around.
a uniquely American twist, our group even used baseball bats to
first mash the mochi rice together to ready it for the pounding.
Some of the younger folk, including Justin Fong, Ricky Uno, and
Ben Leaon expertly handled those baseball bats and mallets with a
also learned from our “Mochi Recipes and Tips” handout that
mochi is widely popular throughout Asia in Chinese (jin dui),
Filipino (babinka), Korean (song paen), Thai (sticky rice with
mangoes), and other cuisines. During the event, a young Hmong
woman and her grandmother drove by in their car and dropped in.
The grandmother recognized the wooden mallets and told us that
Hmong people from Southeast Asia also pound mochi the same way.
dedicated crew of mochi cutters and makers lined the flour covered
tables. Twila Tomita and Annie Kim Noguchi switched off on the
mochi cutting machine, preventing too many singed fingers. Our
youngest mochi lover at about age 5, Sakura Yuki, and her mother
Kaori shaped dozens of mochi cakes, even peanut butter ones. Yuki
Nishinaka and her niece Julie jumped right into the flour flying
Shimada was the "chef extraordinaire" along with Sam,
her indispensable shopping assistant. Fumie’s daikon oroshi nori
(grated radish with mochi wrapped in seasoned seaweed) and
traditional ozone New Year’s soup were delicious! The zenzai
(sweet red bean soup with mochi) hit the spot, too. Sampling fresh
mochi stuffed with “an” (sweet red bean paste) or dipped in
kinako (roasted soy bean flour)/sugar or the ginger/soy sauce/
sugar couldn’t be beat.
was especially good to see some of the Florin JACL students who
had been away at college back home for the holiday break: Sondra
Morishima (NYU), Erik Nishida (Purdue), Michelle Fong (U.C.
Davis), Ben Staley (San Jose State), Annie Kim Noguchi (U.C.
Berkeley), and Beth Uno (UCLA) all pitched in.
members of the San Francisco Asian American Theater Company (Bobby
Horiuchi, Helen Plenert, Art and Justine Lai) was a treat. I
remember seeing several of Art’s excellent performances as Sam
Shikaze, a Nisei Sam Spade, in the hit play Yellow Fever.
Mochi Madness recalled thoughts of family and community for many.
Utako Kimura shared that it brought back many wonderful memories
of family mochitsuki on the farm. I couldn’t agree more with
Heidi Sakazaki when she said that after eating Florin's mochi,
there is no other that comes even close.
acknowledgement goes to our dedicated Mochi Madness planners Stan
Umeda, Fumie Shimada, Terry Nishizaki, Twila Tomita, and Andy
Noguchi. Other volunteers who really came through included Sam
& Howard Shimada, Utako Kimura, Heidi Sakazaki, Bob Uyeyama,
Kazuyo Morishita, Annie Kim Noguchi, Sam and May Morishima, Mike
Staley, Beth Uno, Michelle Fong, Kevin Nakano, and John Onate.