Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Throwing Mochi

I'm quite a few blogs behind at the moment, but I hope to catch up over the next few days...
On Sunday there was the second biggest event of the year at my daughter's school (the first being the sports day...). Because we were in New Zealand at this time last year it was the first time that we got to be part of it. For me it started on Friday with cookie baking - 96 bags to be exact.... fortunately 3 other people came to help! Next all day Saturday was spent at school making donuts, popcorn and other delights to sell at the "bazaar" to raise money for the school. Sunday morning finally arrived and we were at school by 7:30am to put lots of rice into containers, fry chicken nuggets and chips etc. Those who weren't involved in this were in the gym making mochi by the bathtub full. The whole community gets together to pound the rice and shape it into balls ready to be thrown..... that's right - a very common event in Japan is to throw sticky rice cakes and then have people scramble around on the ground to collect them - fortunately they are put into bags first! I asked my husband what the meaning behind throwing the mochi is and he said... look it up - in other words another event that happens everywhere that people are forgetting the meaning behind. I've been searching, but have run out of time! From what I've found out so far, mochi are symbols of happiness and are therefore thrown to bring happiness to those who collect them (and black eyes to those who get in the way of those who really want them!). They are often thrown when a house is just having it's roof put on too.
After the big mochi throwing scramble the children all sang some wonderful songs - to a 4 piece band that some of the adults put together. The photo is of the entire school singing - a total of 46 children.
Once that was all over the "Bazaar" began.... if I thought the mochi throwing was a free for all then the bazaar was another eye opener. The scramble to get the best bargains went on for exactly 30 minutes and by the end of it completely lost my patience with the old grandmothers who were trying to pay for their purchases (I was on the cash register....) while pushing past all the others, quibbling over 20 yen and generally not smiling! But in the end the kids had a great day and I guess that is what matters. I came home and went to sleep!
Because the children went to school for both Saturday and Sunday they have Monday and Tuesday off..... great!


  1. Otsukaresamadeshita! So far I've managed to avoid being called upon to do my 'duty' (they can't decided who is to be the one to speak to the foreigner). Bazaars really do bring out the worst in baachans! They're bad enough at Jusco when there's a barain to be had... So much for the Japanese being the most polite people!

  2. I agree- otsukaresamadeshita!

    And is your daughter's school private? I'm impressed that you can still sell food. That O-157 (?) poisoning in Osaka a few years back nixed all food selling at schools and hoikuen around here. The bazaar takings are now pitiful with just unwanted hikidemono sets and garden produce (hard to sell daikon to people who have it by the fieldful!)

  3. Yes, the mochi's for good luck, I thought everyone knew that? When they put the roof up on the house next door, they had a mochi-toss and people flocked out of the cracks it seemed, I hadn't realized we had so many neighbors!

    There's often a really big mochi tossed for extra good luck. I was pregnant at the time, and not keen on getting in the way of the black-eye crowd, but the builders must have seen me and targeted me as that big old mochi rolled right up to my feet and no-one fought me for it.

  4. Got tired just reading! How you pushed for putting the kettle on for Marina and I one Monday morning?

    Rachel - very funny visual of a pregnant you and some rolling mochi. I was allowed up on our roof to throw ours - pregnant and in high heels. Not the usual but they didn't fight me either :)

  5. Anchan: Unfortunately our school is too small for me to be able to avoid doing any of the duties... I just smile and nod and pretend to know what is going on all the time! Bachan's are definately not the stereotyped image of sweet polite Japanese people!

    thefukases: no - we definately don't go to a private school... but I guess we are far enough away from the big cities that we are not controlled too much by the education boards etc. Making food here is definately the main event... that and soap and towels!

    Rachel: nothing like a bit of mochi fighting to keep you on the ball. I just can never work out what to do with the zillions that we get.... my answer to everything - put them in the freezer until they are covered in ice and need to be thrown out!

    Katy - give me a call - I'm sure I can have the tea waiting for you!

  6. I love this - just what I needed after a full day of teaching and two/three kids who are still not asleep at 9pm!! I feel like I have it easy, and these are SOOOOO entertaining. Reminds me of the letters you sent during holidays - always entertaining. Such dry humour - awesome!! Keep up the good work.

  7. Hi Jo,
    I'm glad I can bring a little light entertainment into your busy life! I either laugh or cry about most of the strange events here and laughing seems the better option. Oh for the days of letters.... unfortunately computers just mean that I have not only forgotten how to speak English, I have also forgotten how to spell - automatic spell checks are a bad thing!

  8. Jo, thank you for commenting on my blog, I have just spent a happy half hour reading back through some of your posts!

    We are absolutely at the end of the Japan spectrum yet so many things in common!

    I thought our school was tiny with 75 kids but it's huge compared to yours! And your life is definitely a shade more rural than ours, as our town/village is gradually getting sucked into the bed-town districts for Sapporo. Sad.... We still live on the edge and are hoping it will stay that way for a few more years at least.

  9. Vicky: every week I discover new people living here in Japan who are leading basically a mirror of my life. It is nice to find people enjoying the same kind of things and getting frustrated by the same kind of things! I look forward to learning more about your adventures up in the north!