The making of the mochi

The making of the mochi

Ingrid Chang

Students learn a little bit about Japanese culture and food

First it’s steamed in the machinery, then cut up into precise sizes, cooled and lastly packed into containers. 

It’s mochi. 

Last year, students went to San Jose's Japantown to help make mochi for the upcoming New Years. Photo Courtesy of Julie Hong. Every year the Japanese National Honors Society volunteers at the Wesley United Methodist Church in San Jose’s Japantown to help prepare and make mochi at the Mochitsuki. The club has been participating in the mochi-making four years ago when Career Counselor Miriam Taba suggested the idea. 

"It’s the church [our family] go to and they said that they were always looking for volunteers," Taba said. "They said that the people that did it before, the first generations, are getting older so they want more younger people [helping them]." 

That’s when Japanese Honors Society began to form this annual event. Before anything, the members of the church prepare the dough, bring it from the machinery, and then put it on a big wooden table. Mainly the volunteers would continue to help with molding the shape of the mochi, cooling it and packaging it as well.

"Your energy kind of goes down because you’re doing so many things at once," Japanese Honors Society activities coordinator senior Julie Hong said. "They assign you different tasks to do because it’s a long process."

Volunteers can help from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., busily flipping over dough for cooling so it’s not packaged warmly. 

But making mochi is not just work gone to waste; it allows students to learn more about the Japanese culture and food. 

"You get to touch the dough itself and find out about the making process, " Japanese Honors Society president senior Priscilla Chan said. "Because mochi is a culturally significant dish in the Japanese culture to be able to learn how to make [it], you put yourself in a first hand experience." 

Mochi is eaten during New Year’s as a Japanese tradition, in either soup or dessert. Because there’s a big Japanese community in the San Jose area, it’s important that some local churches make fresh mochi even though it may also be sold at local Asian supermarkets.

"It’s not an easy thing or something that Japanese people can make at their home everyday so that’s why they probably have this event so that they can make it and people can have it during the New Year’s Eve," Chan said. 

Every year, the Wesley United Methodist Church takes many mochi pre-orders and this year six to seven thousand pieces of mochi from 3000 pounds of mochi rice are made. Mochitsuki is where people can go to if they wanted to learn a bit about the Japanese culture and of course to see the making of the mochi. 

Mochitsuki will take place on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. People who are interested in volunteering can contact MVHS Japanese National Honors Society.