Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
Yesterday, we had an unplanned but delightful day at a bakery in our neighborhood. My MIL happened to notice their signage stating that there will be a Mochitsuki Taikai (餅つき大会 / Rice Cake Pounding Event) in the afternoon. Since I had never been to one and I love free mochi, we braved the winter chill and joined in the fun.
Distributing rice cakes to the community when New Year is drawing near, has been an ancient practice that is getting rare. Nowadays, this charitable act has dwindled down and is not as common as it used to be. Though a few places like the old folk homes, kindergarten or shrines may hold a Mochitsuki Taikai annually. Having it at a bakery had indeed draw a crowd and of course, lot of people love free mochi too. ^_^
Here are the tools used to pound steamed glutinous rice and mold it into shape: Pail of water, Usu (Mortar) and Kine (Pestle/Mallet). The bakery used two types of mallet: a big heavy one for the staffs and a smaller one for little children for hands-on experience.
Pounding the mochi requires good teamwork. Alternately in a rhythmic fashion, one does the pounding, while another turns the mochi.
Then the kids had their fun…
Finally… The mochi did not have an appealing shape but they were really soft and yummy. My sweet-toothed husband chose the ones coated with Anko (red bean paste). As for me, I enjoyed the ones coated with Kinako (soy bean flour), which are not too sweet. In addition to the mochi, we were each given a bowl of sweet Oshiruko (red bean soup with a piece of mochi) to warm ourselves. Really a wonderful bakery!
Just when you thought that that was all, halfway through, the bakers brought out a wooden tray of “Sea Creatures”. Then, they announced that you can bring one home if you win them in a game of Janken (じゃんけん / Rock Paper Scissors or Scissors Paper Stones). [See Game Play below].
In this case, it was a Janken Taikai (じゃんけん大会) or Jumbo Janken, which many people will be playing rock-paper-scissors at the same time. First, the baker stood facing the crowd to initiate the Janken. Any person defeated could not continue and had to stare at the “Sea Creatures” in despair. The game will proceed until the final winner emerged. The first round belonged to a little girl and she happily brought home Mr. Tako (Octopus).
The Mochitsuki event was a jolly gathering and the bakery’s spirit of giving is truly evident. It was indeed a nice way to spend a Monday afternoon.
The main objective of Jangen is to quickly have a winner or decide who gets what. Sometimes, it is even used to solve minor dispute in a fair and simple way. The game begins and every player shows a clenched fist and says “Saisho wa gu” (starts with rock), then follows by shouts of “Jan-ken-PON“. Like Rock-Paper-Scissors (or Scissors-Paper-Stone), each player will make a hand gesture at “PON”. Clenched fist represents Gu (rock/stone), open hand represents Pa (paper), and a horizontal victory sign represents Choki (scissors). See rules below:
The rock crashed the scissors; the scissors cuts the paper; and the paper wrapped the rock… When there is a draw (same gesture), the players will say, “Ai ko de sho” ( アイコデショ) and follow by an instant rematch.