Mochi tsuki event returns to IslandWood

Islanders help pound a mass of steamed rice in a mortar called an “usu” during last year
Islanders help pound a mass of steamed rice in a mortar called an “usu” during last year's Mochi Tsuki celebration at IslandWood.
— image credit: Henri Gendreau | Bainbridge Island Review

The 25th annual gathering for the traditional Japanese American community mochi tsuki event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 5 at IslandWood.

For over a millennium, making and eating the sweet rice treat mochi (moe-chee) has been a celebrated New Year’s tradition in Japan, with generations of families and communities coming together to wish each other good health and prosperity for the new year.

As one of the nation’s longest-running public mochi tsuki (moe-chee-zu-key) events, the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC) welcomes everyone interested in the tradition to come and take part.

BIJAC members will prepare some batches of mochi in the centuries-old method of first steaming the sweet rice over an open fire.

In addition to mochi making demonstrations, the event will also feature performances from the acclaimed Seattle taiko drum group Kokon Taiko. Taiko is a dynamic synthesis of rhythm, movement and spirit originating in Japan and evolving as a folk art over the last several hundred years. Each performance by this popular group is limited to 175 seats due to fire safety laws.

Free tickets for each show will be available 20 minutes prior to each performance, first-come, first-served.

Also, models and renderings of the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial, “Nidoto Nai Yoni – Let It Not Happen Again,” National Historic Site will be on display along with the award-winning exhibit “Kodomo No Tameni – For the sake of the children.”

The event is free; donations for mochi are welcome. Parking is limited at the site and nearby Blakley Elementary School, so carpooling is strongly encouraged.

While arguably mochi is best eaten hot and fresh, many enjoy roasting it in the oven and then dipping the puffy and crisp hot mochi cakes into a combination of sugar and soy sauce. For future enjoyment, or to share this unique seasonal treat with family and friends, mochi can be frozen in airtight bags.

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