I awoke early on an early November Saturday to take part in the Shionoe Elementary School Harvest Festival. I had been to this in my first autumn in Japan, but missed it last year. It always looks good when I go and take part in these these community events and interact with the students since there are plenty of parents around. Throughout the entire time there I was lifting kids into the air and fleeing from their attacks. Kanchos are always a deadly reality at such events.
Since my presence there was not mandatory, I did allow myself to sleep in just a bit before heading over. I made it just in time to catch some of the mochitsuki action too. This is done by smashing boiled rice into oblivion with a wooden two-handed mallet. It takes a bit of strength to wield the thing well and also some timing so as to avoid crushing the hands of guy adding water and adjusting the rice wad. The kids seemed impressed enough by my ability. This really is a very Japanese activity that is seldom done anywhere but at these sorts of festivals on account of mechanization of the laborious process.
Yes mom, I know how good this looks, and also how much you like it.
While the men and students pounded away at the rice, the rest were inside the lunch room taking our mush and shaping it into mochi. For some of them they added anko, which is a sweet red bean paste. We added some beets to a few of the mochi batches to add a purple color to it, though the flavor remained largely nonexistent. Some of the mochi was also rolled in kinako power, which is a sweet blend made of soy. These are quite nice.
The other task was making the soup. This was tackled by the mothers and some of the older students. There were a lot of veggies to be sliced in order to feed everyone. There were some massive pots boiling away, into which they added leeks, daikon, carrots, onions, fried tofu and miso. The end result was a very flavorful soup that if oft consumed during these cooler months.
One of the other activities going on was was the baking of sweet potatoes. These purple spuds are grown by each of the elementary schools and are the same ones I had harvested couple weeks earlier.
Finally, we set the tables in the lunch room for everyone to eat their mochi, soup and sweet potatoes. Once thanks were given, we watched a slideshow detailing how the rice was grown and harvested by the students and then just chatted. After lunch was a sumo tournament that I passed on, so with everything finished I went home to enjoy the rest of my Saturday, and get ready for an event I was hosting later that night.