Japan Society of Fairfield County
Oshogatsu 2006

snowy garden snowy stone lantern Before our Oshogatsu began, nature paid us a visit that won't soon be forgotten. A blizzard struck southwestern Connecticut leaving two to six inches of snow and taking away trees and electric power. Greenwich, the home of many of our members, was especially hard hit. The storm stopped just in time for our event and of the 80 who reserved, 73 safely arrived to celebrate the beginning of the year of the dog. Bento January 15, 2006 was definitely a day for Connecticut's Huskie rather than the Japanese Shiba or Akita.
 Our event began with introductory remarks by Vernon Beck, president of The Japan Society of Fairfield County, followed by greetings  from Masayuki Takashima, Deputy Consul General  of Japan in Boston.
Harry Sakamaki, vice president, led us in a champagne toast to the new year, the year of the dog and the eighteenth year of Heisei.  We then enjoyed a fabulous meal prepared by Hiroyuki "James" Nagata and his staff at the Plum Tree Restaurant (  Table gifts were provided by Shuichi Tanaka, Chairman and CEO of Zotos International who was present for the first time.

Endo playing koto Ms. Yoriko Endo kindly volunteered to perform the koto.  She is a licensed instructor in the Ikuta school of koto, one of the two major styles of koto performance.  She expertly performed two traditional pieces.  The first was  Chidori no Kyoku (Song of a Plover); which is taken from an old Japanese poem.  The second was Haru no Yo (Spring Night).  One night in early spring, a man in a guest house heard a nice tune from a nearby room. He sneaked near and found that a beautiful woman was playing a koto and fell in love with her. Alice  
A superb classical Japanese dance performance of Ayame (Iris patterned summer kimono) was presented by Alice Kaori McDonald.  The performance was introduced by Kyoko Ohnishi, her dance instructor.  
Classical Japanese dance originated on the Kabuki stage in the 16th century.  The Soke Fujima School has been a leading force within Japanese dance and its grand masters have choreographed  Kabuki and Kabuki dance-drama for generations. Kyoko Ohnishi holds a master’s certificate from the Soke Fujima School and gives lectures, demonstrations, and performances for educational institutions, and teaches dance in Connecticut and New York.

Alice Harry Sakamaki then led us in a mochitsuki demonstration.   Mochi balls are traditionally made for the new year from sweet rice pounded into a smooth paste.  This is done in an usu (mortar) using kine (mallets).  Our usu was made from the trunk of a tree and loaned to us by the Greenwich Japanese School. The steamed rice grains are first broken up by essentially stirring them with the mallet head.  Vernon Beck and Nobuhiro Osa are shown doing this in the first photo below. The rice is then pounded to develop the proper consistency. Koito Karlon has the somewhat hazardous job of turning the mochi between kine strokes.  Vernon Beck and  Deputy Consul General Takashima are shown pounding rice in the right two photographs with the assistance of Koito Karlon.  After pounding, the rice paste is squeezed off into small balls.  In order to prevent the rice paste from sticking to the hands of the persons working, it is sprinkled with mochitoriko (rice) flour.  Anko (bean paste), prepared by Atsuko Giampaoli, can be rolled into the center of the mochi ball, but ours were served with the anko on the side.  Plain balls were also served after being rolled in kinako , which is a  mixture of sugar and ground soy bean.  Plain balls were also served with nori (seaweed). Mochi is best when fresh, and we were able to enjoy our own freshly pounded mochi this new year.
mochi stirring mochi poundingmochi pounding
Koto and dance photos courtesy of James McDonald
Garden, bento, and mochi photos courtesy Syd Greenberg
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