New Years is one of the most spectacular holidays in Japan! we already told you about Osechi - the traditional new year's meal, now we want to tell you about another just as important tradition - that of Mochi!
Mochi are traditional delicious Japanese rice cakes, made from rice pounded into paste and then flavoured or filled and formed into shapes. In Kyoto we have this sweet treat all year, but new years is the big Mochi season nationwide, the most popular new years version is Kagami mochi (mirror cake) usually consisting of two layers, a smaller upon a larger topped with a daidai (Japanese bitter orange) - the end result is truly stunning - just look at it!
Apart from being beautiful and its taste Mochi is made in a really cool way, in a ceremony called mochitsuki, the cooked rice is pounded with wooden mollets inside of mortar, two people work together with one hammering and the other watering and turning the rice paste. The work is difficult and requires great teamwork and rhythm - risks of injury are great - but the result really cool!
Be wary when you enjoy mochi! Every year sees several deaths related to choking or lack of chewing - enjoy this tricky snack carefully - and if you want to try to make it - make sure not to wear a big Kumamon costume!