Today’s mochi tsuki, or community mochi-making, was Bainbridge Island’s 23rd annual festival celebrating the Japanese new year with the chewy rice cakes, and it was a lark!

First, sweet glutinous rice is soaked overnight. Then it’s steamed in boxes and poured into a stone mortar. There it’s pounded with wooden mallets until it forms a sticky, elastic dough.

Inside the dining hall, we got to make our own mochi balls from the dough: starting with a twisted-off piece of rice dough, we stretched it to accommodate a ball of red bean paste and patted it into a sphere. Just slightly sweet but mostly very bland, quite tender and very chewy, mochi is a bit like a (healthier?)version of cookie dough–not really my cup of tea, but perfect as a once-a-year celebratory snack.

Seattle Kokon Taiko gave a great performance (we luckily got tickets for their last set of the day). Whatever is wrong, taiko makes it better, if only for the duration of the performance–the whole-body resonance it produces demands that you be fully present and leaves you feeling renewed, joyful, smiling.

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