Mochi (pounded rice cakes) are readily available all year round, but this does not diminish the joy and excitement of welcoming the New Year and celebrating one of the biggest and most important holidays in Japan with a traditional mochitsuki event.
Kailua’s started the third and last term of the school year on Friday, January 8th coinciding with the school’s celebration of the start of the New Year. As the children arrived everybody instantly knew that it was going to be a very special first day of the term as they spotted a large wooden mortar flanked by two wooden mallets sitting in the corner of the assembly hall. The fresh aroma coming from four rice cookers further gave it away – it’s the annual mochitsuki day at Kailua.
The children assembled in the hall and after the usual short prayer and singing “Kailua Is Your Home”, the children gave their own reasons for having a mochi festival. Some of the ideas given were – for good health, for happiness, for good luck and for keeping family and friends together.
Everybody had a chance to pound the mochi. The younger children, using the smaller mallet, pounded the rice 5 times while the older ones did it 10 times, made lively by the loud and cheerful counting of the ones awaiting their turn. Teachers, staff and Ohana mothers then took turns to complete the preparation of the mochi. The mochi was flattened and cut into small bite-size pieces before serving to everyone. Happy New Year and Aloha!