My last week at Sugano, there was a mochi festival (rice cake festival). Mochi is a traditional New Year's food in Japan. People from the community helped organize and prepare for the event. They made two big vats of miso soup and prepared the rice in a wood-fired stove.
The rice is pounded in either a stone or wood bowl with a big wooden hammer. Many of the students pounded the rice. I also got to pound the rice. As the rice is pounded a person sticks their hands in the bowl and turns the rice over so it can be pounded more. I was really nervous to watch and as I was pounding it as well, because I was afraid someone's hands would get smashed. I was really careful about it though and nothing bad happened.
Then the pounded rice is shaped into sticky balls and dipped into sweet red bean sauce and sweet soy bean powder.
The mochi and the miso soup were delicious!Mochi is actually a dangerous food. Each year, a handful of people choke on mochi and die. It's very gooey and can easily get caught in your throat if you swallow before chewing it properly.
You can see just how gooey it is in the picture below. The boys played a game where they each were chewing on one end of the mochi, pulling and stretching it and eating. I dont' think this is typical, they were just having fun, and I thought it was cool.