Local bonds strengthened, celebrated through New Year's tradition
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Beating steamed rice with an abnormally large mallet isn't something seen in a traditional American New Year's celebration; however leadership from the 35th Fighter Wing and Naval Air Facility Misawa had the opportunity to do just that as they joined Japan Air Self-Defense Force members for the annual Mochi Pounding Ceremony here, Dec. 15.
During the ceremony's opening remarks, JASDF Maj. Gen. Koji Imaki, 3rd Air Wing commander, expressed gratitude toward his U.S. Air Force and Navy partners and explained how events like this symbolize the strong American-Japanese alliance and teamwork. He also thanked the participants of the recent Misawa Cookie Caper drive, which provided more than 20,000 cookies for all unaccompanied JASDF and U.S. service members. Following the remarks, it was time to prepare, pound and taste the mochi.
Mochi are small, round rice cakes, but the process of creating them was anything but tiny. Members first donned a "happi coat" and then joined their assigned mortar--or large wooden bowl. Participants were welcomed with a large mallet and instructed to pound the steamed glutinous rice until it reached a doughy texture. The finished product was then molded into balls for the participants to taste, and served in various traditional fashions including a soup called "zoni" and a sweet red-bean soup.
After eating their fill, the members concluded the ceremony with closing handclapping known as "ipponjime." With the cultural exchange over, the participants departed with a continued sense of partnership and unity as the new year approaches.