Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pounding Rice in Tsuzu... Year 2

It's hard to believe this will be our second Christmas in Japan and that we are almost halfway done with our tour here. But it is interesting now because we are repeating annual activities we enjoy, such as the Tsuzu Culture Day, which we first attended last year. The event happened to fall on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor this year. For the Japanese, because of the time difference, the attack happened Dec. 8, and Dec. 8 is when we headed over to Tsuzu, about a half hour away from base, to enjoy the hospitality of the citizens of the town.

Our neighbor and friend, 6-year-old Jamall, joined us for the day trip, and it was his first time to pound rice, eat the rice cakes we pounded, and make a Japanese new year wreath (details about this tradition can be found in last year's blog post.) Here are the highlights:

We were broken in to groups and assigned a Japanese junior high or high school student. Our group also included a classmate of Will's, Jazzmyne. We headed off to see calligraphy demonstrations first.

They had a tough time finding the proper kanji characters for Xan's name, so one of them looked it up on her phone. They went with the phonetic sounds... I have no idea what the kanji means. "Alexander" could mean "dead tree burning," or "green bird floating," for all I know.

After calligraphy was rice pounding. The boys remembered it from last year and wanted to have another go at it. Hot, steamy rice is hit with large wooden mallets until it gets a gummy texture.

Of course the Japanese men thought it would be fun to have the big blonde chick give it a shot. I didn't hold back, either.

Then they passed the pounded rice through the window to the kitchen area and, after using hand sanitizer, we were shown how to make rice cakes.

And then we ate them!

After we had our fill of rice cakes, popcorn and apple juice, it was time to make the Shimekazari, or Japanese wreaths made from rice straw.

Now we hang these outside our doors to catch any bad luck that might haunt us in the new year. Then, around Jan. 14, we will take it down to the Kintai Bridge and throw it in to a giant bonfire to destroy all the bad luck it captured. We had a pretty good year this year, so it must have worked. ;)


Heather Cox said...

So you only hang it for about a month? Do you know when they are having the burning of the wreaths at the Kintai? I didn't make one but i have seen them at the Daiso. Since this will be our last January in Iwakuni, I think it would be cool to go

Jessica Guthrie said...

It's usually around Jan. 14. If I hear of when it is scheduled for 2014 I'll let you know.

Jessica Guthrie said...

It is Monday, Jan. 13, at 5 p.m.