In 1885, the first large wave of Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii to work the sugarcane and pineapple fields. With them they brought many Japanese traditions including mochi pounding.
Today it’s difficult to find a mochitsuki or mocha pounding ceremony in Japan, but here in Hawaii they have become as traditional during the holiday season as Christmas trees and presents.
What exactly is mochi?
It’s a small, sweet, rice cake made from mochigome, a short-grain, sticky rice. They are traditionally made for the New Year and given out to express good fortune for the coming year.
If you’ve never had a chance to participate in a mochitsuki, you should come down for the Wailea Village on the Hilo side of the Big island for Mochi Pounding on December 28, 2014. Locals and visitors will take turns from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm pounding the sticky rice in a large, wooden mortar called a usu with a small, wooden mallet called a kine.
There will also be Okinawan taiko drumming, plantation storytelling, and New Year’s crafts and calligraphy. And after all that rice pounding you’ll probably want to sit down for a hearty local-style lunch (only $5).
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