Returning to a New Year’s Tradition – Mochitsuki

Battling an impending snow storm and limited subway service, Soh Daiko members, alumni, family, and friends made their way to the Upper West Side last weekend for our first Mochitsuki in three years. For decades, Soh Daiko has rung in the New Year by hosting an annual mochitsuki event at our home, the New York Buddhist Church. Since the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, we had been unable to host this event safely–until now!

Following Japanese tradition, preparation for our mochitsuki event is a multi-day affair: the mochigome (glutinous rice) is soaked overnight, so that it is ready to be steamed the following day. Once the rice has been sufficiently steamed, a batch is dropped into a stone bowl (usu) and a team of diligent mochi-makers pound the rice into mochi using a wooden mallet (kine). Once the mochi reaches the ideal consistency, it is divided into small edible portions, fillings and toppings are added, and finally, we eat!

Unique to Soh Daiko, however, is the song we sing as we pound the mochi. Composed by Yoko Fujimoto and gifted to Soh Daiko as a symbol of the friendship, the “Soh Daiko American Mochitsuki Song” (僧太鼓メリケン餅つき唄) has been performed every year since it was taught to us in 2010.

Soh Daiko family and friends enjoyed a potluck meal and fresh mochi, played music together, and caught up on the the years that had passed. Our trainees had the opportunity to meet Soh Daiko’s pioneers, and some even took up the mallet and pounded the mochi! Surrounded by our taiko community, we could not have imagined a better way to start off 2024. We wish everyone a Happy New Year, and look forward to many more wonderful years (and mochitsukis) to come!

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