Heave, ho! That’s not what these Japanese guys were saying as we hoisted this very heavy mallet high before letting it rain down on the glutinous rice balled up in the usu, but maybe it’s close. What’s an usu? That thing with the rice in it that we’re hitting with the kine (mallet). Chris and I got to help pound the mochi in this traditional mochi-pounding party hosted tonight by Fleet Air Wing Four, JMSDF. Luckily we were able to find Chris’ friend Nori among the scores of party-goers. Konbanwa! Chris is holding a bowl of Japanese Navy Noodles, a very delicious type of ramen that apparently people line up for hours to taste any time the Japanese Navy has an open base or promotional event. Maybe not, but that’s what I heard and at any rate I can confirm they are in fact double super tasty. So the official word on mochi is that it’s polished glutinous rice soaked in water overnight and then cooked before being pounded with wooden mallets. There’s an element of danger in most mochi-pounding because someone is pounding while someone else is wetting and flipping the mochi, but they just asked us to please hold on a second (chotto-matte, kudasai!) for that part. The mochi available in supermarkets is probably processed by machine. If you get the kind with red bean paste in it, that’s called daifuku, and if you get the green kind with red bean paste it’s called yomogi daifuku. We had some of that grilled on our Fuji sightseeing tour and it was YUM!Then Suprise! Sumi bursts out of nowhere and says, “Hey Mari! We need more Americans for the Awa Odori dancing later.” Whaaaaaaaat?? I am sooooo not dressed for it. But whatev, the whole concept is, “You’re a fool if you dance; you’re a fool if you watch. If you’re a fool either way, you might as well dance!” So we did.
Then the party was over. In line for the coat/hat check, we got to taste some of the mochi we’d helped pound! It had been slightly cooked some more on a big hot plate and wrapped in peanut-flavoured powder so the outside hinted at being crispy with a chewy, doughy center. YUM! Grilled mochi is the BEST!