The family that makes mochi together, stays together





By Paul Matsushima, Sophie Wang and Craig Ishii; illustrated by Jing Zheng
(Los Angeles: Kizuna, 2016, 40 pp., $17.50, hardcover)

Mochi-lovers, here’s a book you’ll enjoy reading with your children or grandchildren. It shows how mochi was made in the days before there were mochi machines. 

The grandfather in the story dusts off his usu (giant stone bowl in which the rice is pounded) and kine (wooden mallet for pounding rice), which had been stored in the garage for decades. He shows his extended family how to pound the rice and shape it into the familiar round confections. Everyone helps out, and their day of sharing the work brings them closer together; the difficulty of the task helps them appreciate the delicious, fresh mochi.

Grandfather tells his granddaughter, “… Kimi, it doesn’t matter what kind of tools we use to make mochi. It’s about doing it together. My family passed that lesson on to me, and I hope one day you will pass it on to your family, too.”

Zheng’s vivid illustrations of the tools, ingredients, finished product, as well as the family at work are engaging and essential to the story. My favorite picture shows six family members’ grimacing faces as they struggle to lift the usu and carry it out of the garage.  Contrasting the brightly colored pages, Zheng uses a few sepia-tone illustrations to show Grandpa’s memories of pounding mochi as a boy in a World War II incarceration camp.

Some churches, Japanese American community groups and Japanese American Citizens League chapters have a mochitsuki to teach the children how mochi is made. My church and JACL chapter hold an annual old-fashioned mochitsuki in Florin, Calif. It’s a popular event in which the whole family can participate. Eating the fresh mochi is a mouthwatering treat. This book would make a timely gift just before mochitsuki in December/January.  I recommend it.

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