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Posted on Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

Mochitsuki at the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies Saturday

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

The wooden clack-clack of the kamishibai storyteller’s blocks calls us to brave the snow and head to campus to the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies hear the tale of the Mighty Momotaro, each scene’s colorful pictures displayed in a wooden stagelike frame.

The story is punctuated by the thump, thump, thump of the wooden kine in the other room, pounding rice in a giant wooden usu. This year, there is taiko drumming, too, bringing us back to summer concerts and street fairs in California and Hawaii.

There also is sumi writing and manga drawing and origami. Of course the ikebana flower arrangements and the elegant ladies in Miyabi playing koto are not to be missed. Finally, the food—so many different kinds of mochi, sembei, Pocky.

Mochitsuki is the traditional rice cake-making that happens at the end of every year to preserve just-harvested rice for the winter and to make mochi for New Year’s Day Oshougatsu.

Mochitsuki is a big deal in rural Japanese communities. It has become less so in urban communities who make their mochi in a mochi maker or the microwave. Or they just buy it from a mochi and manju shop. However, there is a growing resurgence in Japanese American communities across the United States, who want to teach younger generations (fourth and fifth now) about their culture and heritage. It is always a lot of fun.

Check out this video on You Tube to see how it is really done.

Ann Arbor’s Mochitsuki event is sponsored each year by the University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies:

Special Event: CJS's 2010 Mochitsuki January 09, 2010 01:00PM - 04:00PM, 1st Floor, School of Social Work Building, 1080 South University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106 Host Department: Center for Japanese Studies (CJS) CJS's 6th Annual Japanese New Year's Event.

Further Information
The event includes: mochi-making and taste-testing, live music with Miyabi (koto music) and Raion Taiko (taiko drumming) (, kakizome (New Year’s calligraphy), origami, kamishibai (Japanese storytelling), manga-drawing, ikebana demonstrations, games, and more.

Free and open to the public. Families are welcome. Contact Information: 734-764.6307;

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at