Mochi Pounding at Motoazabu Hills

Kelly Wetherille

Feb. 13, 2018

Of the many traditional Japanese rituals to happen around the start of the year, mochi pounding (or mochitsuki) is one of my favorites for its festive community atmosphere. Motoazabu Hills, a MORI LIVING residence that is especially popular with families, hosts its own annual mochitsuki event, so I decided to check it out this year.

When I arrived in the community room of the residence, the festivities were already underway. Children were scooping bouncy balls out of a water-filled pool and playing “fukuwarai,” a traditional activity that is similar to the western game of pin the tail on the donkey. In the back corner of the room, adults were trying their hand at Japanese calligraphy, or kakizome.

Once the staff announced that it was time for the mochi pounding to begin, we filed outside to where Togo’s, a restaurant at the base of the residence, had set up a mochitsuki station. The staff were already hard at work getting a batch of mochi started, while another batch was ready to be served. There were various flavors available, including sweet soy sauce with black truffle, anko (red bean paste), and kinako (sweet soy bean powder).

Once the rice had started to soften into mochi, children – followed by adults – were invited to help out by pounding it themselves. Everyone had fun bringing down the wooden mallet (or kine) on the sticky paste, watching as it transformed before our eyes.

The mochitsuki event is just one of the many activities hosted by Motoazabu Hills each year. Last October, I also participated in a Halloween party and trick-or-treating at and around the same residence. The streets were packed with Minions, ninjas, Disney characters, witches, and superheros, all having the time of their lives. Two of my favorite costumes that I saw were a sumo wrestler and a Marie Antoinette, very creatively made from household items such as bubble wrap.

In addition to being loved by local residents, Moto Azabu’s Halloween celebration brings families from all over Tokyo to participate in a true American-style event. If you have children and have never been, I recommend checking it out this year!