Inku
Japan Society of Fairfield County
Oshogatsu 2007

kite The bad weather that plagued JSFC events during the year of the dog left with a bluster.  Vice President Harry Sakamaki brought an "Edo Yakko" kite decorated with a dandy of the Edo Period.  Japanese children often fly kites on New Year's Day.   The kite string is thought to carry wishes for a child's growth and a good harvest to heaven.
Our event began with introductory remarks by Vernon Beck, president of The Japan Society of Fairfield County, followed by greetings  from Jiro Okuyama, Deputy Consul General of Japan in New York and Director of the Japan Information Center. We were also joined by Shinkichi Takahashi, Vice Consul General of Japan in Boston. Harry Sakamaki, vice president, led us in a champagne toast to the new year, the year of the boar and the nineteenth year of Heisei. Our membership chair, Yumi McDonald,  led us in a group introduction to introduce new members. We then enjoyed a fabulous meal prepared by Hiroyuki "James" Nagata and his staff at the Plum Tree Restaurant. Table gifts were provided by Zotos International.

Takeshi & Sanae Calligraphy Takeshi and Sanae Asai provided our main entertainment for the afternoon. Takeshi is a composer and leads the jazz ensemble WaFoo. He played Rhapsody of Wa (Harmony) and Hana no Machi (Town of Flowers) on the keyboard.  His wife accompanied him on the next piece Sakura Sakura, at the easel doing a calligraphy, with a cherry (sakura) tree incorporated into the calligraphy.  Takeshi's final piece was Something about America, which  he composed himself.

SingingNaoki Achiwa lead us in a new Oshogatsu activity, a group sing of traditional New Year's songs:  Oshogatsu (New Year), Soshunfu (Ode of Early Spring), and Ueo Muite Aruko (Sukiyaki).

We ended our event by making mochitsuki.   Mochi balls are traditionally made for the new year from sweet rice pounded into a smooth paste. The pounding 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.  The rice is then pounded to develop the proper consistency. Koito Karlon again had the somewhat hazardous job of turning the mochi between kine strokes.   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.
Photos courtesy Syd Greenberg
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