Mochi Pounding: A Reflection

Mochi pounding 2014

I think I’ve always taken mochi for granted. Mochi: the sticky, yummy childhood treat; something that my great-aunt always has at her house for Christmas. But I’d never given much thought to actually making mochi until I heard that the museum was hosting the mochi pounding celebration to ring in the new year. When I told my parents, they started to rave about the time they pounded mochi together in Japan, so I was excited for the day. We started in Samsung Hall, Polaroid cameras ready, looking on over the crowd of people. Little children bordered the front of the crowd, eagerly straining forward towards the demonstration. The members of Kagami Kai were all dressed in colorful red and blue robes. Happy colors for a happy celebration. I felt slightly out of place in my black outfit which was too somber a color for the occasion.

The demonstration started with an artist painting an ancient character for horse in front of the crowd. Seeing this performance was fascinating as it celebrated the new year by painting an old character. At the Asian, mixing old and new seems to hold a special place.

When the members of Kagami Kai actually started pounding the mochi, the room filled with the beat of drums, the ringing of bells, the happy sounds of voices chanting along, and of course, the deliciously nutty smell of the mochi. They were so enthusiastic while pounding the mochi, it was hard not to start clapping to the beat. As audience members volunteered, I sensed such gusto in hitting a mass of glutinous rice over and over again with a wooden mallet. Kids looked hesitant when they first stepped up but soon this feeling transformed into total bliss (I guess it’s not everyday that kids actually are allowed to play with their food). At the end of the demonstration, everyone lined up to pick up some mochi to eat. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of the celebration or the mochi itself, but the result, my little mochi souvenir, tasted amazing.

Check out our video from our 2012 ceremony:

Written by Nat Gable.