It doesn’t take much to make my day. However, when three of the things I enjoy most all happen in one day, I can’t help but feel life is good no matter how bad my allergies get. Last Sunday was the Mochitsuki Festival in Bainbridge Island. It’s a tribute to Japanese culture, family, a welcome to the new year, and most importantly, a great opportunity to eat my favorite snack food in the world.
The ceremony itself is ages old but in Bainbridge, the festival was started 26 years ago by a handful of Japanese families as a way to get together and ring in the New Year. Now it is an annual celebration which brings in people from all over the Seattle area, and even beyond. I learned about the festival itself last year when we first visited the island. My ears pricked up at the mention of mochi when we went to visit the museum in the island but was bummed when I learned we had missed it by a few days. Since then, I was determined to go the very next time it happened.
Mochi is made from mochigome which is a short-grain glutinous rice. The grains are soaked overnight and steamed, then pounded and kneaded in an usu which is the traditional mortar using wooden mallets called a kine. It is then either filled with sweet bean paste or left plain and eaten dipped in shoyu. Back then, mochigome was hard to come by since it was difficult to farm and harvest so making mochi was reserved for special occasions such as New Year’s. Today, anyone can make mochi without the need for a village ceremony by cooking mochigome flour on the stove.
Besides the whole mochi business, the festival also featured a Taiko performance. It’s an experience that, for me anyway, is hard to put down in words. The rhythm of the drumbeats, the movements of the drummers, never fail to move me. I once watched Kodo perform at the Laurie Auditorium in San Antonio, TX and was hooked since. I would never pass up a chance to watch them perform in Seattle. Although the Seattle Kokon group was not as grand as Kodo, I still enjoyed it.
On the ferry home, we were also able to enjoy some delicious chili from the galley. It’s one of those obscure things that we discover while exploring the pacific northwest. I’m by no means a chili expert but I do know that chili from the MV Puyallup is worth the ferry ride. If you ever take the ferry over to and from Bainbridge, make sure to give it a try.
The whole day was rainy and just the perfect shade of downcast for me. I love rainy days which is one of the big reasons we moved to Seattle. I’m one of those weirdos who feel happiest walking in the rain (cold virus be damned).
The prefect trifecta for me: rain, mochi, and taiko. Now that’s how you greet the new year in my perfect little bubble.