A Ton of Mochi…A Wesley Tradition

By Barbara Hiura
Making mochi requires a village and this year was no different. Our church was alive with activity and very noisy with loud laughter, constant chatter, and “Hiroshima” background music on Dec. 29. You had to be there to witness or better yet participate in this organized fundraiser of hands-on labor of love.
You want community? You want relationship building? You want spiritual uplift? Well, here it was all in our Fellowship Hall and patio…many hands preparing this beloved Japanese necessity to usher in the New Year. The best part of all was seeing the children participating in Camp Mochi and learning the art and craft of mochi-making…the steaming, the pounding, the cutting and shaping. Here our church is passing on this tradition to the next generation…maybe number six or even seventh gen in our church’s history. You had to be there to hear all the stories youth and young adults, parents, grannies and grampies, singles and seniors, were passing on to one another as they were together for the holidays and of course, they couldn’t miss doing mochi at Wesley. “It’s what we do!” commented one mochi cutter.
It may have looked like a gigantic party but …let me tell you, it was a tiring hands-on labor intensive process in this community fundraising effort. Everybody works. And all who volunteered minimally four hours of their holiday time was needed for a shift. Thank you that it was only one day rather than two or three days as in years past. The organizers recruited well ahead of time…. Along with regulars from our church, and their extended families, they called on high school students needing community service credit, Yu-Ai Kai working now jointly in the fundraiser, Buddhist church members, and the talent of the skilled mochi makers who wash rice days ahead and on the day of, steam, pound (by machine), and bring batches upon batches upon batches to the mass of workers inside. It takes a modicum of skill to learn mochi cutting as master cutters and mochi cutters. Rest assured, that skill is being passed on. Many of us learned from the Issei generation like Mrs. Naito. But with time, the skill-set changes. But no matter how it’s cut and shaped, miraculously, it still ends up round, soft, and ready to use.
We had sellers. We had buyers. We sold out quickly this year as we only produced a ton…a little over 2,000 lbs. “We used to do 9000 lbs back in the day,” Dale Sasaki, co-chair of our annual mochitsuki, stated. The last several years, we’ve only had a one-day mochitsuki, so “we sell out in less than a week,” added Mary Sasaki.
Tradition. Part of what makes up Wesley UMC is our cultural traditions that has traversed the ocean from Japan to the US. It makes us not only unique but also a part of the fabric that when woven together is so American. Today, beneath God’s oversite, we had made mochi for traditional Ozoni soup, or dunked in Oshiriko (red bean soup) or just eaten toasted with sugar, shoyu. And the newer generation of kids have found eating mochi with Nutella, delightful and tasty. So, our Japanese culture is carried forward and our JA community is thankful for this tradition “Your mochi is the best! It reminds me of the days we went to Grandmas house and all the family helped making mochi for New Year,” recalled Akemi Schulz, or “Thank you for the holiday tradition” Mary Rhodes said.
We have many to thank…the village of over 200 volunteers; our high schoolers from An Sobrato, Cupertino, ,Irvington, Los Gatos, Piedmont Hills, and Wilcox; Jane Kawasaki and Yu-Ai Kai volunteers for the delicious lunch of curry rice, weenie teriyaki, and cabbage salad; the Boy Scouts for clean up; all the team leaders organizing groups for prep work, steaming and pounding, cutters and shapers, cooling and flipping, weighing and packaging, taking orders and picking, finances, taking care of volunteer sign up, and of course Camp Mochi.
Hats off and accolades to our all our dedicated and hardworking co-chairs who organized the event and recruited our team leaders: Keith and Shelley Nakashima, Ron Ogi, Randy Shingai, and Dale Sasaki.
Master Steamer, Akio Sekino shows Master cutter Ryan Osada, the steaming hot mochi he’s going to be working with.
Kelvin Kamachi receives the pounded mochi from George Leano
DeeDee Azuma works with her son, Matt in the cutting and shaping process
A family affair with Kathy, Joelle and Elise Haneta.
Amy Shoizaki, Irene Nakamitsu, and Jeanne Haruta show off a two-lb box ready to sell.
Washing, steaming and pounding the mochi.
Cutting and shaping table.
Turning and flipping with Kenton Kuwada and Kathy Iyama.
Jim Tengan and Warren Shimonishi measure and weighing mochi for sale.
Check-in team were Kiyomi Yanai, Lisa Bantilan and Shizuko Adachi.
Our sellers who spent the day in the classroom making our community buyers so happy with their pounds of mochi. Our mochitsuki sellers are from left: Mari Yanaii Fujii, Mika Yanai Visitacion, Sue Yamamoto, Ben Katai, Dora Ozawa and Marcia Yasukawa
Marion Suhama, Mary Sasaki and Lynn Tabuchi were in charge of all 200 volunteers for mochistuki.
Rev. John even put on an apron, but there’s not a drop of mochi flour on him, standing here encouraging co-chair Dale Sasaki.
Shelley Nakashima (co-Chair) on the left rested for just a moment as she was seen scurrying around ensuring that the mochi was moved from the Fellowship Hall to the sale room.
 Jane Kawasaki and Yu-Ai Ki volunteers were hard at work preparing lunch for all 200 workers.
Mieko Tsukamoto and her daughter flipping mochi.
Diane Okusako (left) putting on finishing touches on the 2lb box of mochi and its ready for sale.
Doris Tabuchi and Kazuko Hughes, pack mochi boxes to be weighed.
Cynthia Fukuda and Terri Koike, neophytes to mochi cutting, talked story and laughed their way through their shift.