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【Activity Report】 Mochi Making (Pounding) at Japan Club @Leaders HS

Hello everyone! This is NY de Volunteer.  We would like to share the highlights of the third meeting (January 16) of the Japan Club, which was established in November of last year at Leaders High School in Brooklyn.

As it's the first meeting of the new year, we decided to have a mochi pounding event!

You can find the details of the first and second Japan Club meetings below🎍


  • “Happy New Year! (a-ke-ma-shi-te o-me-de-to  go-zai-ma-su)” and Quiz on the Japanese New Year

  • Finally, it's time to start pounding mochi!

  • Let's shape the mochi!

  • Red bean paste, kinako, and seaweed are popular!

  • “お年玉 O-hi-da-ma”!

“Happy New Year! (a-ke-ma-shi-te o-me-de-to  go-zai-ma-su)” and Quiz on the Japanese New Year

This week, an intense cold wave hit, and it was so bitterly cold that there were concerns about the school closing. Despite this, 19 students energetically gathered at 3:30 PM with the ringing of the bell.

As usual, we started with greetings, usually a cheerful "Hello!" and then proceeded to practice self-introductions. However, this time, we practiced New Year's greetings, specifically the phrase "あけましておめでとうございます (a-ke-ma-shi-te  o-me-de-to  go-zai-masu)" (Happy New Year), taking cues from the examples provided by our Japanese volunteers.

Next, we introduced Japanese New Year traditions, such as family gatherings, enjoying special New Year's dishes (osechi-ryori), talking about the zodiac, and playing traditional New Year's games like kite flying, “ha-go-i-ta” battledore,  and spinning tops. We incorporated quizzes to make it engaging. We asked how to play with a large decorative battledores (hagoita) that we brought in, the only one student knew how to play.  (Great job, Hilda!).

We also prepared prizes. The prizes included teacups with sushi designs, hand towels featuring the traditional Japanese sport of sumo that we introduced in the previous session, and crane-shaped earrings. Everyone was delighted with the prizes.

Finally, it's time to start pounding mochi!

A loud "bee" sound rings out, indicating that the Mochi-go-me, glutinous rice has been steamed! Everyone gathers around the mortar, and the staff, along with strong volunteers, give a lecture and demonstration on mochi pounding. Everyone listens attentively as they are instructed not to swing the pestle with force but to rely on the weight of the pestle for a smooth pounding.

Now, it's time to take turns pounding the mochi. Each person takes five turns, and those around them cheer with voices of "Yoisho! Yoisho!"

As we completed the first round and entered the second, the individual grains of rice had mostly disappeared, and the mochi started to become sticky. Along the way, even the principal and all the volunteers took turns pounding. In the end, the strong volunteers took charge of the final rounds, pounding thoroughly to finish the mochi, and it was complete.

Let's shape the mochi!

Everyone washes their hands thoroughly and, while keeping their hands moist, starts shaping the mochi. Mochi can be prone to causing choking, especially for students not accustomed to eating it. To ensure safe consumption, we tore the mochi into fairly small pieces and rolled them into balls.

We prepared the following five toppings, quickly arranged by volunteers:

  1. An-ko (Sweet red bean paste)

  2. Kinako ( powdered roasted soybean;  a mixture of kinako and sugar in about 1:1 ratio, or less sugar if you like healthier version)

  3. Sweet soy sauce (soy sauce with sugar or honey)

  4. Isoyaki-style (soy sauce and seaweed)

  5. Mizore mochi-style (grated daikon radish with soy sauce)

To create the topping in the style of Mizore Mochi, we provided Daikon (Japanese long radish) radishes and graters for the students to grate. Upon seeing the radishes and freshly grated daikon, there were voices of "Cool!" and it seemed like some students were seeing Daikon radishes for the first time.

Red bean paste, kinako, and seaweed are popular!

As expected, the sweet options were favorites, with red bean paste and kinako being particularly popular. Surprisingly, even seaweed, which many people may find challenging, turned out to be a hit. Some even wrapped every topping with seaweed, saying, "Isn't this what comes with sushi?" The Mizore mochi-style, however, seemed a bit too sophisticated for everyone's taste.

We cooked 10-“goo” (1 goo is a little less than one cup) of mochi rice, but it quickly disappeared in no time!

“お年玉 O-hi-da-ma”!

Lastly, in Japan, there is a tradition where children receive "otoshidama" (cash placed in a special envelope) during the New Year. As it's not suitable to give cash at school, we chose Japanese-made stationery, specifically colored gel pen set, popular overseas, as an alternative. Each gift included a message personally written by Shizuko Kitagawa, Director of NY de Volunteer, for every student who registered and attended.

We wrapped up the event with a commemorative photo! It appears that everyone thoroughly enjoyed what was likely their first experience with mochi pounding.

At the next meeting, we intend to feature a performance and introduction of the traditional Japanese instrument, the "koto." We will also offer Matcha tea and traditional Japanese sweets.

As the date approaches, we will send out registration form (online). Priority registration will be given to Japan Club @Leaders HS members, followed by all other Leaders High School students. Please note that the capacity is limited to 20 students.


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