Fourteen years running, the JRFCC has hosted a mochitsuki (rice pounding) event for the other area Japanese sports teams. I can’t claim too much involvement in the actual planning, but I’d have been remiss to skip out entirely. I’m always game for an authentic Japanese event, generally validated by my being just one of only a few white folks present. Once arrived, there was plenty of food to eat, and some opportunities to help out too. They were obviously going to have mochi, but finding gyoza, syummai, and takoyaki offerings as well made for a pleasant surprise. There wasn’t much value I brought to the operation, but I sure stood there behind the kinako like it mattered for something.
I was watching a Japanese Santa imposter attempting to create balloon animals. His audience of kids began to wise up to the fact that Santa was Japanese. I was on a very short list of people who fit the traditional description of Kringle, and definitely the only one willing to put on a sweaty suit and beard and to then go on and play with the kids. For three years this was my life, and filling the role of token foreigner/Santa/clown in such a setting certainly brought about nostalgia of my time on JET. We transitioned into the mochitsuki portion of the event, done with hot rice, and a massive wooden mortar and mallet. The thing is a bit unwieldy for the youngins, so one at a time I would help them strike a few blows before passing along a holiday treat. Once all the kids had passed through the line, it was time for Santa to have a crack at it. My incredible power had some splinters breaking off into the mochi…Ho-Ho-Ho!
Next was an arm wrestling competition, once for the men and again for the women. We lined up by age and then two at a time faced off. The loser sat down, halving the field after each round. Getting into the final four wasn’t too much trouble, but then I had a dead heat that was called a tie. My arm was dunzo after that, and any chance of winning and of the other matches was gone. The absolute highlight was having all the kids chanting ‘Santa! Santa! Santa!’ whenever I was at the table. Santa did his best, but was ultimately pleased with the fourth place finish. Our rugby captain Masa was the champion – Represent!
All in all, it was a superb little event, and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Being the off season we’ve not had our usual weekly practices so I don’t get to see this crew as often as I’d prefer. Here of course we have the quintessential, Japanese group shot. The fifteenth annual will be next year, and I’ll be looking forward to it!