Inku Our Snake
Japan Society of Fairfield County
Oshogatsu 2013

Oshogatsu Attendees      The Japan Society of Fairfield County welcomed 2013, the Year of the Snake, with a traditional Oshogatsu Festival.  JSFC Director Mayumi Kleinman was Master of Ceremonies and introduced JSFC president Vernon Beck. Mr. Fumio Iwai, Deputy Consul General and Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in New York, opened the ceremonies and was followed by Mr. Greg Boyko, Honorary Consul General of Japan in Connecticut.    Bento & table gifts Also attending were Mr. Nobuyuki Watanabe, Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of Japan in Boston; and Mr. Masakazu Kigure,  Consul for Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of Japan in New York.  Mito Mardin, our new membership chair, introduced new members. Mito Mardin, vice president of JSFC, led a sake toast to the new year.
     We then enjoyed a fabulous meal prepared by Chef Taka and his staff at the Plum Tree Restaurant.  Our meal was patterned after the traditional Osechi-Ryori enjoyed at New Year's celebrations and included many foods with symbolic significance. Table gifts were provided by Ron Krassin, Chairman and CEO of Zotos International.
     Our entertainment program began with classical Japanese Dance by Fujima Konishiki, our own Kyoko Ohnishi, licensed instructor of the Soke Fujima School of Dance which is over 300 years old. She began by discussing uses of the fan in her dance and then had audience members join her in using fans as  imaginary lawn rakes to rake in happiness, good fortune, and good health for the new year. Raking it in Her first performance was Kotobuki (Congratulatory Dance).  Ohnishi-sensei learned her next dance during her latest trip to Japan and Soke Fujima.  Since this dance was just developed by the Grand Master of the Soke Fujima School, this was an area premier of  Ume no Kaori (The Fragrance of Plum Blossoms).
Fred      This was followed by a talk: "My Sensei Experience" by new member Fred Maupin.  Fred spent over 5 years working in Okinawa as a JET.  The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, now in its 26th year, is aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations.  Recent college graduates are hired to work in Japan as assistants to regular classroom teachers to help teach foreign languages, predominantly English.
      Atsuko Giampaoli and Koito Karlon led our 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 pounded with a mallet to develop the proper consistency.  Koito Karlon again had the somewhat hazardous job of turning the mochi between kine strokes. This year Masakazu Kigure, cultural attache, was our lead pounder  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 katakuriko (now usually potato starch but traditionally from the corm of a lily). Pounding mochi Anko (red 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.  Red and white are the traditional colors of celebration in Japan. Our mochi was served with kinako on top.  Kinako is a  mixture of sugar and ground soy beans and also was prepared by Atsuko.  Mochi is best when fresh, and we were able to enjoy our own freshly pounded mochi this new year.
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