With slideshow: Ann Arbor 'Mochitsuki' celebration draws 1,000 to Japanese New Year event
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
Sitting with her mother Yukari Ohzawa, of Novi, Michigan, and her sister Karen, 4, Suzuka talked of her interest in the art form and her collection of origami paper at home.
"It's really fun," she said. "I do it a lot when I'm bored."
The Japanese New Year's event, which was hosted by the University of Michigan International Institute Center for Japanese Studies, was expected to draw about 1,000 visitors Saturday afternoon at the U-M East Hall Math and Psychology atriums, 530 Church St.
The event was a belated New Year's celebration, as the Japanese New Year is celebrated Jan. 1.
Visitors to the event enjoyed live music, lessons on creating Japanese calligraphy, Japanese food — and mochi.
During Mochitsuki — mochi-pounding ceremony — mochi is created and eaten. Mochi is a rice confection, and one of the "central foods for celebrating New Year's in Japan," said Ken Ito, director of the center.
Guests had the opportunity to help pound the rice with a wooden mallet, a concoction that later was molded into balls to make mochi.
The free, annual event drew about 1,000 visitors last year and is the center's "biggest outreach event of the year," Ito said.
"We want them to have fun and get a little bit of exposure to the Japanese culture," he said. "We hope for kids it might start a long-standing interest in Japan."
Ito said about 100 volunteers and five of the center's six staff members helped orchestrate the event.
Ramona Oslizlo, of Portage, Indiana, watched as her two grandchildren, Lexi Oslizlo, 9, and Mikey Oslizlo, 10, both of Dexter, Michigan, tried Japanese calligraphy.
Oslizlo, who is babysitting her grandchildren for the weekend, said she learned about the event while searching for weekend activities online.
"I was looking for anything to entertain them," she said. "We tried sledding this morning, but it was very cold."
She said they "wandered through," stopping to look at the flower arranging station, and then moved onto to the calligraphy room.
When asked what he thought of the event, Mikey Oslizlo said, "I think it's nice."
Heather Lockwood is a reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.