Rooted in Tradition

My grandmother’s mochitsuki usu

After 3 long years of not being able to gather, my folks decided it was a safe time to restart our annual family tradition of pounding mochi.

We are fortunate to have the mochitsuki usu, the stone for pounding sticky rice into those delicious pillows of deliciousness. It is a tradition that was started centuries ago by my ancestors in Japan. When my great grandparents immigrated from Japan to the sugar plantations of Hawaii, they continued this tradition.

These stones were carved from basalt to replicate what was used in Japan and passed on to families over the years. Our usu was sitting under my grandma’s house for years until my aunt discovered it while cleaning up.

My dad studied how to make the hammers needed using ironwood from the farm. He mastered the craft and taught it to my nephew to help smooth the hammer to make a good pounding surface.

My mom was having my girls prepare the rice by washing it and soaking it to prepare to steam it the next day. It takes a good 24 hours to have the rice grains ready to be made into mochi.

The morning of pounding is setting up the steaming and washing of the stone. Water must also be boiled to prep the pounding and keep the hammers from sticking. Once that is all ready, it is time to pound.

It takes many people to pound the rice then hand form the mochis. We can add the traditional fillings or even add new stuff like peanut butter or Nutella. The old ways meld with the new but always keeping to the tradition of gathering and working together.

The very stone we use today connects us to the past. It is a reminder of where we came from and ties us to our roots. We know where we came from and share in the traditions that our ancestors started.

It is the same when we stand under the stars and look at the sky. My ancestors did the same as they traveled across the ocean in hopes for a better life. I am grateful for their bravery of leaving the comforts of home to make it better for the next generation.

It may be a new year ahead of us but we must remember that we share a connection to our past in so many ways. I was reminded of that today as my family did what my ancestors did for centuries.

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