MURAYAMA, YAMAGATA PREF. – “Try our mochi,” calls out Nao Sakai at a Tokyo bazaar as she sells rice and rice cakes fabricated at her family’s boutique in Yamagata Prefecture.
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Mochi, or adhering rice cake, is a accepted amusement eaten abnormally during the New Year’s holidays and holds a appropriate abode in Japanese hearts.
The cakes can be eaten in countless means but are commonly eaten as ozoni (a soup with mochi and vegetables), and is advised the best advantageous bowl to eat on New Year’s Day.
November and December are the aiguille division for affairs it, says Sakai. She offers two types: the annular onna mochi and the aboveboard otoko mochi — application the Japanese words for woman and man, respectively.
Sakai, 41, campaign about a ample allotment of the country, from Tokyo to Osaka, affairs mochi at events, farmers’ markets, administration food and guesthouses.
Each November, her family’s rice boutique uses the acceptable mochitsuki method, anguish aflame rice in a board adhesive with a large, abundant board mallet at a baby branch in Murayama. The Komeyakata rice boutique doubles as a guesthouse.
While she is active with customers, her ancestors and Komeyakata’s agents calculation out loud the cardinal of times they hit the mochi, as they cast agnate cardinal cards.
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Each accumulation placed in the adhesive weighs 5 kg and is baffled 200 times. A man rears aback and pounds it as adamantine as he can with the kine (mallet), afore a woman bound flips it over. The man is replaced by addition man afterwards 20 repetitions.
The women about-face aback they get tired. This is done at atomic 16 times, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to accomplish 200 packs of mochi daily, breach analogously amid the onna and otoko versions, explains Yoichiro Sakai, 42, Nao’s earlier brother and “boss.”
The mochi is again molded into shapes, anxiously inspected, kept in accumulator and arranged by a dozen or so agents in the factory.
“Mochi starts accepting smooth, agleam and whiter by the time it’s baffled 150 times,” Nao explains. “But to be assertive that it’s delicious, we accept to batter it 200 times.”
“The aftertaste is absolutely different” from the machine-beaten ones, says Nao’s bedmate Sam Wilson, 36, originally from Britain, who has been accomplishing mochitsuki daily. “It is a lot smoother.”
Mochi tastes bigger aback fabricated with mochi rice, rather than rice crumb as is usually the case with industrially produced mochi, Wilson says as he drives to a amplitude of acreage area they autumn their appropriate rice in backward September and aboriginal October with agents and volunteers.
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Over the rice shop’s 130-year history, the Sakai ancestors has kept accretion the business, affective on from actuality sellers and cultivators to mochi producers. But authoritative rice cakes was a ancestors attitude afore it became a business about six or seven years ago.
For about 20 or 30 years — none of the adolescent Sakais apperceive aback absolutely — the ancestors has been agreeable neighbors and accompany over to allotment bootleg mochi every November.
Their grandmother acclimated a apparatus again and at times awash some mochi accidentally to accompany in Tokyo. But aback the fifth bearing absitively to booty it over from her, “We decided, well, if we’re activity to do it, let’s do it properly. Let’s do it by hand,” Wilson says, abandoning the family’s accommodation to use the acceptable mochitsuki method.
They additionally started authoritative it by mochitsuki “because it’s absolutely fun,” Yoichiro says.
“We called the business Komeyakata, which actually translates into ‘rice’ and the old chat for ‘family.’” Authoritative mochi is adamantine and cannot be fabricated alone, he says. In the old days, mochitsuki was done “everywhere” by families.
Hitomi Abiko, a vegetable farmer, came by the branch one albino day to buy beginning mochi with her Tupperware already abounding with acrid brewed natto (soybeans) — a accepted way to eat mochi in the arena — for her aged father. Mochitsuki is “very rare” and Komeyakata’s mochi is abounding with “the men’s strength,” she claims.
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An American university assistant blockage at Komeyakata’s guesthouse additionally enjoyed watching the ritual.
“I’ve apparent a brace of times demonstrations like this in Nara but this absolutely feels authentic,” said Heather Yoder, 31. “I’ve never had such good, beginning mochi before,” she said as she ate her chocolate-covered treat.
“When we do it, anybody from the adjacency comes, and it’s blatant and fun,” Nao says. “I like to anticipate that joy is transferred into our mochi so that bodies who eat it become acutely happy.”
Komeyakata ships out all of its mochi by Dec. 20, but Nao brand to biking to advertise it anon to barter because “it’s so enjoyable, and I anticipate our barter feel assured aback they accommodated their producers.
“I appear to advertise mochi in Tokyo, because I accept it leads to barter acceptable alike happier about seeing us and bistro our mochi that is absorbed with our joy,” she says.
That joy was advance as she awash her articles at Aoyama Food Bazaar in axial Tokyo, aback Chinese apprentice Hu Xuebin, 20, tasted some that her arrest was alms to passers-by. It was her aboriginal time tasting Japanese mochi, which she declared as actuality altered from the rice cakes aback home but still good.
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“So mochi is advised adorable everywhere in the world!” Nao said.
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