Pounding Rice is Always Fun

Do you remember the song that goes:

Planting rice is never fun
Bent from morn till the end of sun
Cannot stand and cannot sit
Cannot rest for a little bit

This is the English version of the Filipino song, “Magtanim ay Di Biro.” Literally, in English it means, “Planting is no joke.” It tells about how hard it is for people to plant rice, because one has to bend the whole time while doing this. And in case you’re wondering, yes, planting rice is still done manually in the Philippines. Here in Japan, I don’t see anyone doing that anymore; the machines have replaced manual labor in the fields.

This song comes to mind because last week, my husband and I brought our daughter to her very first “Mochitsuki Taikai.” This was an event organized by the city’s public daycares. It was not required for the children to attend, but we thought it might be fun to have our daughter experience this unique opportunity. Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice (what we call “malagkit” in Tagalog), pounded into a really gooey paste, and molded into shape. Flavoring is added to the mochi afterwards. It’s quite similar to our suman – a native Filipino delicacy – we usually dip it into some sugar to sweeten it. Mochitsuki refers to the ceremony of making mochi. Taikai – well, this is the Japanese word for tournament or mass meeting. I didn’t think that it referred to any tournament in any sense, so I took it to mean something close to the second definition. Anyway, my very first experience of mochitsuki was at my sensei’s place, where everyone from our lab participated. It was fun pounding away at the rice, but believe me, it was hard work! It’s quite interesting for me because hey, how often do you attend something where the main event is pounding rice? It would be akin to Filipinos organizing a group event just to make suman.

The event was held at Yukari no Mori, a nature center of sorts where people can go camping, barbecuing, or simply commune with nature.

When we arrived, the place was already abuzz with rowdy children and their parents. The senseis were busy with the reception, cooking, and preparations. Apparently the glutinous rice had already been prepared earlier, and so participants would only need to do the rice pounding using the traditional wooden mallet and mortar. While waiting, the children were gathered for some story-telling from the sensei.

Aya loves to listen to storytelling. And apparently, so did everyone in this photo! That’s her with the red head warmer.
Meet Mr. T, Aya’s sensei at the daycare. Yes, ladies and gents, he’s a man. He happens to be the only man in the entire daycare. Oh, I love people who defy convention! :) He’s pretty good with children, by the way.
I just want to show you how Aya sat throughout the storytelling session. She sat the “Japanese” way – legs tucked under! I really wondered how she can sit this way for a long time. My legs always get numb when sitting this way.
The main event! Here is Aya and her Tatay holding the humongous wooden mallet to smash the brains, err, mochi. Another sensei (not in the picture) turns the mochi over while moistening it with water.
Finished product. One mochi was covered with “kinako” – yellow soybean flour, quite sweet; the black thingy, I believe, was invented to gross you out. No, seriously, it was covered with roasted sesame seeds (ahh, so that’s why it’s black, eh?), quite salty. Do you know that sesame seeds are called “goma” in Japanese? :) Girls, don’t ever eat this when you go out on a date. Beware of black tingas!

Aside from the coated mochi, we were also treated to a nice hot soup with lots of vegetables, minute amounts of chicken, and of course, mochi. Perfect for the cold.

I was kind of worried that Aya would have trouble eating the mochi. But when we were not looking, she actually finished everything on her plate! My worry about mochi is that it is quite sticky, and if you’re not careful, you can actually choke on it. I heard that people (usually the elderly) actually choked on mochi and died. Apparently, a vacuum cleaner is more effective in dislodging the mochi from people’s throats because the Heimlich maneuver does not work. I hate to think of the possibility of sucking out sticky rice cake out of my daughter’s throat using a vacuum cleaner that has been to heaven knows where. Yikes. Anyway, I didn’t have to worry about it after all because I also noticed that the mochi wasn’t as sticky as I thought it would be. The organizers probably made it less sticky than usual in consideration of the children.

We were able to take home with us some goodies back home, because apparently some people who earlier signed up failed to attend the event. It was quite windy that day, and the supposed games later in the afternoon were cancelled. Because of the wind, in spite of the sunny weather, it got too cold for comfort.

When we got home, Aya gobbled everything up, and didn’t even leave any for us. Di naman siya masyadong mahilig sa mochi ano? 😛

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21 Responses to Pounding Rice is Always Fun

  1. dimaks says:

    That was a fun family bonding :) I like mochi wrapped with nori after being heated in an oven toaster. Oh, and those in the soups too. ‘also heard about the news that many elders die due mochi. Sad, but they like it :)

  2. hazel says:

    its sad that our country wasnt able to modernize farming marami pa man din tayo agricultural lands.

    anyway, sarap ng bonding nyo!

  3. bw says:

    Very interesting and educational indeed. Great tasting desserts made from rice seems to be better made by hand :)

    Glutinous/sticky rice is very dangerous to swallow if you are not careful. I always down it with tea or coffee to loose in up but you can really end up choking yourself, esp kids :(

  4. verns says:

    hindi naman masyado hahahaha.

    So Mr. T is a maaannnnnnn…interesting and cute :)

    Thanks for sharing Kat…actually nakyu-kyutan ako coz you really take the time to make Aya participate in events like this. Kasi ako nung bata pa never naka experience ng mga ganyan2x…nung elementary na lang. Pag ako may baby ganun din gagawin ko…hala! baby salihan mo lahat! hrhrhrhr

  5. kathy says:

    As you probably know, Aya attends daycare while we work, so we make it a point to attend these special events with her. :)
    Pinakaayaw ko naman na mochi ay yung may nattou…ewwww…

  6. kathy says:

    Thanks Hazel! Masarap nga yung mochi. With all the time and effort required in making it, it’s more convenient to just buy it from your local supermarket. But then again, that’s not much fun, eh? 😉

  7. kathy says:

    Mochi is great, but I’m still partial to biko, sapin-sapin, puto-bumbong, and kuchinta. There’s nothing like a Pinoy kakanin. :)

    Yes, folks, be careful when eating glutinous rice! Your suggestion of drinking something hot while eating it is actually a good recommendation.

  8. kathy says:

    yeah, Mr. T has got to be the coolest Japanese dude I’ve ever met. He reminds me of Kuya Bodjie in Batibot – hey, siguro naman you’re not that young to have not watched Batibot on TV!

    Yeah, me too. It’s amusing, actually, when I consider that I’m experiencing these things at the same time with my kid. Cultural immersion din to para sa amin ng asawa ko. :)

  9. Belle says:

    Kathy,

    I used to slog through the mud for 8 hours or more. Oh yeah, that was the only way I could earn extra money. Sobrang hirap!, patay katawan ko pagdating ng gabi…limang pesos lang ang bayad sa akin…huhuhu.

    I love mochi. But I prefer to buy it than to make it from the scratch.

  10. verns says:

    ano ka vah! Syempre alam ko yung batibot noh hehehe :)

  11. herb says:

    uy mochi~! havent had mochi for a really long time. mukhang masaya ah!

  12. kathy says:

    Wow, you experienced that?!! That’s so admirable, Belle! I could imagine the hirap. It must have truly enriched you as a person.

    I prefer to buy it too, if only to appease my stomach cravings in a jiffy. 😉

  13. kathy says:

    ah ganon ba? hehe…inuunahan lang kita. 😉

  14. kathy says:

    Yup! Sana umattend ka nong mochitsuki na organized ng cultural foundation.

  15. niceheart says:

    That looks like a fun event. :)

    I thought Aya’s tatay was just one of the bigger kids. :) He kind of looks young. Or maybe it’s just the angle of how the picture was taken.

  16. kathy says:

    Uy, young? I’m sure he will be flattered, lol! You know he is the smiling type, maybe that adds to the youthful look hahaha. :)

  17. Toe says:

    Great pictures and a great experience for Aya! Hahaha… I like it too that her sensei is a man. :)

    BTW, my comments are finally getting through. For the longest time, my comments are always identified as spam.

  18. kathy says:

    Yeah, me too. I was a bit surprised to find a man handling their daycare class…but actually he does a great work with the kids.

    Hmm, I wonder why your comments have been identified as spam. But tell you what, because we have a log of all comments – including those identified as spam – in our database, I will comb through the entries and try to recover your comments. :)

  19. Bernard says:

    I loved the song.. it was sung in Boys’ Brigade when I was younger. :-)

  20. kathy says:

    I learned this song when I was in elementary, I think. Is Boy’s Brigade similar to Boy Scouts?

    Thanks for dropping by, Bernard. :)

  21. Bernard says:

    Similar.. it’s a Christian boys’ organization.

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