The Traditional Mochi-Making Method: Mochitsuki
Mochi-making is a beloved tradition and is usually a group activity with family and friends during periods of rest or celebration. It is linked to the importance of rice (a staple meal in Japan) and was traditionally used in certain practices to thank God for providing a decent harvest.
The process starts the night before, where the mochi is washed and left to soak overnight. Early the next morning, the rice is decanted into a square, wooden steaming basket (a seiro) which is set over a kettle of boiling water.
The steamed rice is then placed in a large usu, or mortar, made of wood, stone, or concrete. The rice is then pounded with a wooden mallet - one person typically will be pounding the rice, whilst one will be turning the rice to create a smooth texture, with no individual rice grains.
Once the final texture has been achieved, it can be taken out and placed on a table of mochiko, a sweet rice flour, to remove some of the stickiness. This is then rolled into a desired shape and left to cool.
Mochitsuki is an activity that is particularly prevalent around New Year's as it is believed to bring good fortune. This is because mochi is associated with keeping teeth and bones strong for years to come!