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Japanese New Years tradition alive and well in Livingston
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Women of the Livingston United Methodist Church pinch off small balls of mochi. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal

Most believe in good luck charms and four leaf clovers, but the Japanese people believe in making mochi rice balls for the New Year as a sign of good luck.

“We make rice for the new year to celebrate the New Year,” said Sherman Kishi, Livingston United Methodist Church member. “You stack up the mochi and give it to the shrine and it is supposed to bring good luck.”

But this church doesn’t stack up their fresh made mochi next to a shrine. They make it and sell it for others to eat for their New Year’s celebrations.

“It is very good,” he said. “We like to eat it.”

Wednesday marked the 35th year that Livingston United Methodist Church has continued the Mochi Tsuki tradition of creating mochi balls.

Kishi remembers making mochi back in the 1930s at a neighbor’s home. The tradition at the church started in the 1980s.

“It’s an old tradition that we enjoy doing,” Kishi said.

Pastor Bob Kuyper said that most people who live in Japan don’t even see the mochi being made the traditional way by manually pounding the rice.

“Most people from Japan have never seen this because there are machines that make mochi now,” Kuyper said. “This is the old way of doing it before the machines. It keeps the Japanese tradition alive.”

The process begins by washing the sweet rice for the mochi balls, Kishi said. They soaked the rice for two days before Wednesday when they started to steam the rice in barrels. It is then transported over to a grinder to help with the pounding process.

Two people then pound the rice as one person helps turn the rice in between the pounding of the rice. The rice is then rolled into balls.

The church created two kinds of mochi on Wednesday. One is the typical mochi and the other one contains ahn rice, which is a sweet paste that is put inside the mochi.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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