Lantern Festival In the Spirit of Obon 2014

What is Lantern Festival?

Last year, Morikami’s much-loved summer event, Bon Festival,  evolved into Lantern Festival: In the Spirit of Obon. In an effort to protect the safety of Morikami visitors and staff, we moved the event out of the often inclement and even dangerous Florida summer months. While Obon is a traditional and religious Japanese holiday celebrated exclusively during the months of July and August, we have preserved the essence of Morikami’s much-loved event and the sanctity of Obon as it is celebrated in Japan, with Lantern Festival – a unique Fall celebration.

The 2013 Lantern Festival, our first ever, was a resounding and sold-out success. As we look toward 2014, we wanted to update you on some important changes to the event and explain why we’re making them.

NEW – Priority Access for Members!

Based on your feedback following Lantern Festival last year, and in an effort to improve your Lantern Festival experience, we intend to limit attendance even further at this year’s event. In order to do so, we can no longer offer free admission to Lantern Festival for Morikami members. However, members will have access to a limited amount of deeply discounted tickets before they go on sale to the public, and priority access to the festival one hour before the gates open to the public.* Priority access is a perk just for members and details about what’s included in this extra hour of festival access are available under the member tab on the festival web page and listed below:

  • Access to the festival one hour early: Take in the gardens and grounds, and participate in festival activities with your Morikami family during this members-only hour.
  • Early bird lantern sales (limited quantities available): beat the rush and get your lantern an hour before the general public!
  • Members-only taiko show: Grab a seat at this exclusive performance by the ever-popular Fushu Daiko!
  • Special members-only sake selection: Taste our members-only sake selection and learn about the brewing process from our sake experts.

A limited number of members-only tickets will go on sale August 1, a month before ticket sales open to the general public. Thank you – as always! – for your support as we strive to make our events more enjoyable year after year. We can’t wait to celebrate Lantern Festival 2014 with you!

*Please note: only current members (with valid member ID’s effective on October 18, 2014) may take advantage of members-only festival access, between 2pm and 3pm. Any guests attending with you must be covered by your membership to enter the festival during this time.

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Q&A with the Curator: Who’s Genji?

Our current exhibit Genji’s World Through Japanese Woodblock Prints is open and ready for your visit, but some of you may be wondering – Who is Genji? We sat down with Curator of Collections, Veljko Dujin, to answer just that, and some of those other burning questions you might want answers to before visiting us. Here’s what we learned:

Who is/was Genji?

 Prince Genji, also known as Hikaru Genji, or the Shining Prince Genji,  was the fictitious son of an Emperor and his favorite concubine. Ever since Murasaki Shikibu wrote the novel The Tale of Genji, he’s been a popular figure in Japanese literature, theater and art.

 Why is Genji, and the Tale of Genji, such an important part of Japanese culture?

 Over time the popularity of Genji broadened from the Imperial court to the broader public. Parts of the novel originally appeared around the year 1008, and by Murasaki Shikibu’s  death (around the year 1025) the work was made into its final form of about 54 chapters.  The novel’s influence has long out-lived its author who was cruicial in developing Japanese as a written language. In fact, The Tale of Genji became required reading for court poets as early as the 12th century, and she has been highly regarded as a classical writer ever since. Murasaki had a lasting impact on Japanese literature, culture and art that hinged on this novel.

 What can guests expect to see in our Genji exhibit?

Woodblock prints. There are many great prints in this exhibit from some of the best known 19th century artists. By the 19th century Genji monogatari (or Genji epics) were tremendously popular in Japan, and while in the centuries prior many fine pieces of art were produced with scenes from the tale, most were one-of-a-kind paintings, either in the form of hand-scrolls, screens, accordion albums or scrolls. With woodblock prints, they were made available to the masses.

In the 1820’s a parody, originally published as a serial (several of the booklets are on display) called A Rustic Genji by Fradulent Murasaki, generated so much interest in Genji monogatari, that well over 1000 different prints were produced in the following decades. These prints depict scenes from both the original Genji and Ryutai Tanehiko’s 1820’s parody.

 Is there anything our guests should look for specifically (i.e. certain symbolism, images, or deeper meanings) in these prints?

 There are layers of symbolism in the Genji prints, so one has to be very familiar with the novels to be able to understand some of the subtle implications in some of the prints. In a few prints, however, viewers can see Genji-mon or Genji crests, which are rectilinear groupings of 5 vertical lines and one or two horizontal lines at the top. These were developed to correspond to each of the 54 chapters in the original novel, and are often placed on prints. They were commonly used in shell matching games where players try to match the two halves of a shell. One half  of the shell would have a Genji mon (like the ones on the prints) and the other half would have either a verse or an image from the corresponding chapter in The Tale of Genji.

 Which is your favorite piece in this exhibit and why?

 That would be two prints depicting the winter pastimes of  some ladies in waiting at the court. They are making a snow-rabbit in one and snow-frog in the other. I really like this particular print because it alludes to fun tradition that goes along with making these snow-creatures in the winter. Generally bets were placed on how long before the snow sculpture defrosted, or if they made two, like in this print, which one would last longer. 

 Anything else?

 Please come and see the exhibit, it is a great collection, seldom seen! We’ll also be hosting a lecture as part of our Speaker Series with Sarah Thompson of MFA, Boston. She’ll be speaking specifically about how Genji was translated to art and the Kabuki stage on April 17th. Don’t forget to check out Keeping in Touch: Culture of letter-writing in Japan, the other exhibit we have on display now, for some interesting artifacts, letters and more. 

Kunisada Woodblock Print, Genji's World Through Japanese Woodblock Prints at Morikami

 

Emi & Katsu’s Hatsume Top Five

For those of you in the mood for a countdown, Hatsume is just two weeks away! We’re excited to share this uniquely spring celebration with you all, and our Hatsume mascots, Emi and Katsu, can’t wait to tell you about what we’ve got in store. We’ll hand over the reins to lovely Emi now as she presents:

Emi & Katsu’s Hatsume Top 5!

#5: Spring Morikami Style

Katsu and I love to stroll through Roji-en on a festival day! The gardens are buzzing with excitement, especially when Roji-en is in full spring bloom. Enjoy an open-air tea ceremony or picnic under hand-crafted cherry blossoms. Oh, and make sure to pick up a Morikami picnic blanket!

#4: Treats & Eats

Katsu and I disagree on what’s the absolute best thing to eat at Hatsume (he likes the Japanese snacks at the Museum Store’s Sweet Shop, while I like the Cornell Café’s special Chirashizushi), but we can agree that there are LOTS of great things to try. From the Sweet Shop in the Museum Store, to Japanese and American favorites throughout the grounds, there’s plenty of good eats to be had. You can get an idea of what to try by checking out the menu ahead of time (Pro tip: it’s also a good idea to see how many tickets you’ll need for festival food or the Cornell Café while you mull over the menu.)

Once you’ve purchased your piping hot Spring Rolls, you’ll want a nice chilled beverage to go with them. Visit the Kirin Beer Garden or the ever-popular Sake Station – staffed by Stacole Fine Wines, and a very special guest directly from Japan: Richard Priest of the Kikusui Brewery! Richard will pour some delicious selections from his brewery AND squeeze in some Sake 101 talks.

#3: Shop & Play

Once we’ve had our fill of delicious food and drinks, Katsu and I like to meander through the avenues of craft, plant and tea vendors. There are so many wonderful vendors to see that we need both days to scout out what we want to purchase (That’s why we’re so excited about the new weekend pass!) Whether you like handmade jewelry, bonsai trees, authentic Japanese teas, or locally designed apparel, there’s something for everyone in the Hatsume Marketplace.

After we’ve closed the deal on some fantastic finds, Katsu can’t wait to head to the kids’ activities. This year he’s especially excited about making onigiri, or Japanese rice balls, with the education staff. Katsu is also looking forward to playing with ribbon kites and making his own origami planter with matching origami butterfly!

#2: Anime @ Hatsume

Anime has been one of mine and Katsu’s favorite parts of Hatsume since it was added in 2009. We can’t wait to see all the exciting things Tate’s and the other anime vendors will bring! Katsu loves to watch the Fine Print Shoppe live screen print t-shirts, and this year yours truly are featured on the shirts (designed by local artist TeslaCake)! You can get your Emi or Katsu shirt printed for FREE when you bring your own shirt, or buy one for $10.

As if the anime vendors weren’t enough to keep you busy all day, this year – for the first time ever- there will be a Hatsume Arcade featuring classic Japanese video games like Pacman, Dance Dance Revolution, and Galanga. When you’ve danced your heart out in the theater, head over to the Morikami Caricature station in the lobby, and take home your very own hand-drawn caricature to commemorate your day at Hatsume.

Last but certainly not least, bee-line to the Pikachu stage on Saturday for the Costume Contest, and on Sunday for the 2nd Annual Fashion Show (just one more reason we think you should try out a weekend pass). The colorful and creative outfits are sure to wow in the last few hours of the festival, and the competition is fierce!

#1: Action-Packed Entertainment

That brings us to the number one thing we love about Hatsume Fair – the entertainment!

We’ll hear Richard Priest of Kikusui Brewery give us the sake lowdown on the Pikachu Stage, before it transforms into a runway for the hottest costume and fashion contests this side of Palm Beach. Come strut your stuff or play paparazzi!

Over at the Osaka Stage you’ll witness the stamina and dedication of the very best of local martial artists. Hatsume is the only time of year you can see all these athletes in one place, so don’t miss out!

And, finally, on the Tokyo Stage: take in the rumbling of the taiko drums! You might have guessed that this is Katsu’s favorite part of the day, and he can’t wait to take part in the interactive kids’ taiko show at noon on both days. The Tokyo stage plays host to Ronin Taiko & the Wadaiko Academy on Saturday, and Fushu Daiko on Sunday. So, if you want to pick your favorite, you’ll have to get that weekend pass!

Thanks to Emi & Katsu for helping us pick out the best parts of Hatsume, and please feel free to add to the list in the comments below – we love hearing from you! See you all in a couple of weeks!

Emi & Katsu-03

Guest Blog: Aaron Woolfolk, Director of The Harimaya Bridge

One of our favorite programs by the Morikami education department is our yearly Speaker Series. This month we’re excited to host a screening of The Harimaya Bridge, and a talk by its award-winning director, Aaron Woolfolk. We asked Aaron to share a bit about the film here for you in advance of his lecture next Friday, and he delivered with this wonderful peek behind the scenes at the making of the film. Read on for his one-of-a-kind perspective on the challenges and successes of making The Harimaya Bridge, and join us next week to see this inspiring film and Aaron in person. Enjoy!

The Harimaya Bridge: When the Rain Is Your Friend
By Aaron Woolfolk

One of the compliments I often receive about my film The Harimaya Bridge, which will be shown at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens on February 21st, is the way the beauty of the deep Japanese countryside is captured by the cinematography. Indeed, from the time I started conceiving the story in my head and putting it to paper (or, rather, computer), I was intent on showing the majesty of the land in Kochi-ken, the rural prefecture I lived and worked in before setting off on my journey to become a filmmaker.

But it nearly didn’t work out that way. In fact, The Harimaya Bridge as it is now — a drama told amid clear blue skies and the lush greens of mountains and rice fields — could just as well have had that lovely backdrop replaced by continuous rains and monsoon-like conditions.

In many cases, when a movie is filmed is determined not by the needs of the story, but by those of key elements of the production. Creating the schedule means, for example, finding a time when the actors (who might be very busy and in-demand) are available. The same goes for getting an experienced crew. Many times you have to take what you can get. For The Harimaya Bridge, which had the good fortune of casting several popular and respected actors (including the internationally-known Danny Glover), it was determined that the best window for shooting the film would be in June and early July. Because the next available window would not be for several months — and because one never knows what will happen when a film shoot is postponed for so long — we went with the June plan.

There was just one problem: June and July are smack dab in the middle of southwest Japan’s rainy season.

Being caught up in the euphoria of getting a movie financed and a notable cast to appear in it, I at first gave the timing of the shoot little thought. After all, if you manage to make it past the multitude of obstacles to getting a film made and see your project go forward, there’s a (short) period of time when you tend to believe that everything will automatically work out in your favor. But as the pre-production months went by and the production approached, I became increasingly concerned. The rainy season in Kochi is something I had experienced firsthand, and memories of it started to drown out my “everything will be just fine” attitude. I started to remember that, having lived and worked in Kochi as a participant of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, and having made numerous return trips in the years since, I had witnessed with my own eyes (and never fully-dried clothes) the heavy monsoon-like rains that could carry on for days, even weeks, with no let-up.

I had written The Harimaya Bridge not only to convey the message of the story, but also to showcase the beauty of rural Japan, and Kochi Prefecture in particular. I had drawn on more than 15 years of my personal relationship with Kochi to create the story. I had a specific image of this corner of Japan I wanted to show the world. And in my mind that image consisted of exterior scenes with bright and sunny days. But it began to hit me that my conception of the film would likely have to change to accommodate the weather. I began to mentally prepare myself to make a movie whose story would be told against the backdrop of continuous rain. The enthusiastic “We’re shooting in June!” cry of February morphed into the cautious “We’re shooting in June” lament of April.

I expressed my concerns to my cinematographer, renowned cinema veteran <a href=”http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0619919/”Masao Nakabori.

“Don’t worry,” he said very nonchalantly. “The weather gods are always kind to me.”

Not quite sold on his connections with the divine, I went through my script and started reconfiguring it for heavy rains. Those scenes where the main character got lost in the rural backroads? I guess it would make him even more annoyed if he were drenched. That pivotal scene on the mountaintop in which one of the film’s central mysteries is solved? I guess we could lose the mountain and play the scene in a house. The scenes at the famous Katsurahama Beach? Maybe those two central characters could cement their friendship in some indoor setting.

“It’s very smart and responsible of you to make a back-up plan,” Nakabori-san said. “If we need it, we’ll use it. But don’t worry.”

Filming began in early June just as the rainy season officially started. Outwardly, I kept my spirits high and confident so as to keep up the morale of our cast and crew of 70+ people. But inside I was on edge, wondering how the weather over the next five weeks would affect the film I had been trying to make for eight years.

And then the most amazing thing happened: The weather cooperated. We did not accommodate it; rather, it accommodated us. In fact, the weather settled into a pattern that worked for us as if it were a member of the crew. On the days we filmed outdoors, the rain was nowhere to be found. But on the days we filmed indoors, the rainy season lived up to its name as the skies opened up. There were even days when the rains came down in the hours we shot interior scenes, and then the sun came out in the hours we film exterior scenes. This carried on almost without fail for the five weeks of Japan shoot. It was uncanny!

One day in particular I will never forget. The weather forecast for that entire region of Japan was for a 100% chance of heavy rain. But it was the day we were scheduled to shoot one of the most crucial scenes of the film at the famedHarimaya Bridge, the site that was the namesake of the movie. At that point we’d had such good fortune with the weather that there was no room for flexibility with weather continuity. We absolutely had to have dry conditions. But all of the weather reports said this would be the day our luck finally ran out.

And yet, the rain held and we filmed the scene. As we did I looked around. Half a kilometer to the east: rain. A quarter of a kilometer to the west: rain. To the north and south: rain. At one point a local reporter who had been writing articles about the movie took out his cell phone and showed me a satellite image of southwest Japan. “There’s rain everywhere for hundreds of kilometers in every direction…except for right here!” he said. “The gods must really like you, and really like your movie!”

There was even one instance late in the shoot when the rain saved me. At the end of a long day we went to film a very important scene inside a sake factory that had been converted into a soundstage. Only, as the camera rolled, one of the actors was not doing what I wanted. It was at that moment I realized that I had neglected to prepare the actor for this crucial scene. “If only we could come back and do the scene tomorrow,” I lamented to myself. Yet the schedule was too tight, and it would have been irresponsible to voluntarily cut two hours of shooting. But then the rain that had been falling outside started coming down hard, much harder than it had the previous times we filmed at the warehouse. So hard, in fact, that our sound recorder informed us he could not get a clean recording of the actors’ dialogue. After weighing our options, we decided to add onto the next day’s schedule in order to return to the warehouse and shoot the scene. Of course, I made sure the actor received the necessary preparation, and the next night the scene went beautifully.

“See? No need to worry,” Nakabori-san said to me after our last day of filming.

On February 21st, “The Harimaya Bridge” will screen atMorikami Museum & Japanese Gardens, after which I will speak about the film and answer questions. Please come and enjoy the movie…and consider just how different (and wetter) the images you see onscreen might have been.

Details and tickets for the lecture and screening are available here, hope to see you all there!

Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan

For those of you counting down, there are only seven shopping days left before the much anticipated (or dreaded) Valentine’s Day! In preparation, we talked with Education Director, Shigeko Honda, about an interesting tradition called White Day that sprang up around Valentine’s Day in Japan. Here’s what we learned:

 Valentine’s Day first became popular in Japan in the 1960s. Women would buy a number of boxes of giri-choco (義理チョ コ), “courtesy chocolate,” and tomo-choco (友 チョコ), chocolate for her female friends, and distribute them around the office to friends or acquaintances.  She would purchase an expensive box of honmei-choco (本命チョ コ) chocolate of love, and another gift, such as a necktie, for her special someone.

As the holiday became more and more widely celebrated, the confectionery industry started to sell white sweets as return Valentine gifts, since in Japan, henrei (返礼), “returning the favor,” is considered important etiquette.  The Japan National Confectionery Association eventually designated March 14 as White Day in 1980, giving men an official day to return the favor. Traditionally popular White Day gifts include cookies, jewelry, white chocolate, white lingerie, and marshmallows.

Stores in Japan take advantage of the Japanese feelings of obligation and promote White Day by giving men plenty of reminders and incentives in the form of White Day sales and special White Day markets. Here are a few examples:

While White Day hasn’t officially taken off here in the states, we think it’s a great way to say thank you!

P.S. If you’re still looking for some sweets for your sweetie, or even your best friends (Gal-entine’s Day anyone?) may we suggest something from the Museum Store? We’re stocked with Japanese snacks and sweets, as well an array of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and more! Stop by or visit us online and check out our selection. We’re sure you’ll find something for everyone on your Valentine’s/White Day list.

New Year’s Series Part 5 – The Finale: Shishimai & Daruma!

UPDATE 1/10/14: Due to extreme flooding Oshogatsu has been postponed until Sunday, January 19, 2014. If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email with details about your purchase. Otherwise, you may still purchase tickets online until Friday, January 17th at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you all there next Sunday!

As our last piece of the New Year’s series (don’t miss part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4) we wanted to tell you about two of the most popular and widely known traditions of the Japanese New Year – Shishimai, the Lion Dance, and Daruma. These two are among the most recognizable elements of the Japanese New Year and our annual celebration: Oshogatsu.

Shishimai

Shishimai is the traditional Lion Dance performed during New Year’s celebrations all over Japan. The tradition originated in China, but has spread throughout Japan as a New Year’s staple as well as a popular dance at Shinto Shrines during other celebrations. The lion costume is made of a wood and lacquer head called a shishi-gashira which literally means lion head, and the body is made of green dyed cloth with white designs. The lion can be manipulated by a single person, or two people, and as with Chinese lions, the make of the head and designs on the body will differ from region to region.

In Okinawa, a similar dance exists, though the lion there is quite different than the shishi of mainland Japan. Instead of dancing to the sounds of flutes and taiko drums (like he does at Oshogatsu), the Okinawan shisa dance is often performed to folk songs played with the sanshin.

Get a taste of this lively dance, and some other Oshogatsu activities in our video below:

Daruma

Daruma is also a very important and recognizable figure for the New Year. The original Daruma, also called Bodhidharma, was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally regarded as its first Chinese patriarch and the father of Zen Buddhism.

Later, monks began designing dolls as symbols of Daruma, and these dolls are now regarded as a symbol of good luck, especially for the new year. It’s common to give a Daruma doll as a gift, then the giftee colors in one eye of the doll and makes a wish or sets a goal. Once the wish or goal is complete Daruma’s other eye can be colored in. In this way, every time the recipient sees the one-eyed Daruma, he/she recalls the goal. It’s sometimes said that Daruma-san is motivated to grant your wish, because you promise to give him full sight once the goal is accomplished.

At Oshogatsu you can take part in this tradition too! At our DIY Daruma wall you can write a wish or goal, and color in one of Daruma’s eyes. Then you can come back next year and give him full sight if your wish or goal comes true. We’ll also have last year’s Daruma Wall up for you to check in on your 2013 wishes and goals.

We hope to see you all at Oshogatsu this Sunday – and remember: discounted tickets are on sale ONLY until Saturday at noon, after that tickets will be $10 for kids and $15 for adults at the gate. Happy New Year, and have a wonderful Year of the Horse!

New Year’s Series Part 4 – Omikuji & Hanetsuki

UPDATE 1/10/14: Due to extreme flooding Oshogatsu has been postponed until Sunday, January 19, 2014. If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email with details about your purchase. Otherwise, you may still purchase tickets online until Friday, January 17th at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you all there next Sunday!

 

This week we’re discussing some of the activities we just couldn’t do without at Oshogatsu: omikuji, or New Year’s fortune telling, and hanetsuki, which is similar to badminton. Read on to find out why these activities are two of our favorite things about the Japanese New Year.

Omikuji

Omikuji literally means “sacred lot” and is usually done at Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan on New Year’s Day. Attendees make an offering (in Japan usually a 100 yen coin, but it’ll be $1 at the festival) and receive a fortune or blessing.

Traditionally you would draw a fortune with any one of the following:

  • Great blessing
  • Middle blessing
  • Small blessing
  • Blessing
  • Half-blessing
  • Future blessing
  •  Future small blessing
  • Curse
  • Small curse
  • Half-curse
  • Future curse
  • Great curse

Below this category you would find the actual fortune as it relates to your life. Some of the traditional fortunes deal with wishes or desires, lost articles, travel, business dealings, romantic relationships, marriage proposals , engagements, and other topics.

At Oshogatsu  you’ll make your $1 offering and draw a number. This number corresponds to a fortune, which our staff will give you. Bad fortunes are tied to trees or wires so that they don’t attach themselves to you. If your fortune is good you can either take it with you for good luck, or tie it to the wire to give it greater effect.

Hanetsuki

Hanetsuki is a game similar to badminton, but without a net, that was traditionally played by girls around New Year’s. You can play as a pair, or by yourself, but the object is to keep the brightly colored shuttlecock aloft as long as possible.

The game is played with decorative paddles called hagoita, and while the game no longer enjoys the popularity it once did, hagoita are still very popular collectors items. In December of each year Sensoji Temple holds a huge market devoted to the paddles. More traditional decorations on the hagoita usually depict beautiful Edo-period ladies or kabuki actors, while modern images include fantasy characters (like Hello Kitty or Harry Potter), celebrities, sports players and even politicians like Prime Minister Koizumi.

At Oshogatsu you can enjoy hanetsuki on the hill top near the Shishimai Stage and hear the sound of rousing taiko drums or beautiful koto while you play!

If you need something to tide you over until the big day head over to our New Year’s in Japan Pinterest board and see what’s in store, or take a peek below! See you next weekend!

2013 in Review : Thanks for Making 2013 a Great Year to Blog!

We want to say a special thank you to all of our readers, and a Happy New Year! Below are some of our blog stats that wordpress helped us put together. We couldn’t have done it without you, so let’s make 2014 bigger and better together 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

New Year’s Series Part 3 – Special Episode of Vlogs with Veljko: Nengajo

UPDATE 1/10/14: Due to extreme flooding Oshogatsu has been postponed until Sunday, January 19, 2014. If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email with details about your purchase. Otherwise, you may still purchase tickets online until Friday, January 17th at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you all there next Sunday!

 

Our New Year’s series is back with a special episode of Vlogs with Veljko. This week we’ll let our Curator of Collections do the talking about one Japanese New Year’s tradition that you can get in on yourself: Nengajo!

Stop by Morikami to make your own New Year’s card now through December 31st (it’s FREE with paid museum admission!) For now, take a look at some of Veljko’s favorite cards, and get some history (or maybe a little inspiration for your own card).

You can also join us for a day chock full of Japanese New Year’s traditions – Oshogatsu! Get details and tickets on the event site. And don’t forget to check back next week for our next New Year’s topic! See you then 🙂

Delicious Eats & a Taste of the Rice Pounding Ceremony – Part 2 of Our New Year’s Series

UPDATE 1/10/14: Due to extreme flooding Oshogatsu has been postponed until Sunday, January 19, 2014. If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email with details about your purchase. Otherwise, you may still purchase tickets online until Friday, January 17th at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you all there next Sunday!

 

With Part 2 of our New Year’s Blog series we want to talk about one of our favorite parts of any celebration – you guessed it – the food. Food plays an important part in celebrating the Japanese New Year; from Mochitsuki, rice-pounding to make mochi cakes, to special New Year’s eats, there’s a lot to taste and try when you visit us during Oshogatsu.

NEW YEAR’S FOODS

There are a few foods that are important symbols of good luck and happiness for the New Year. These special New Year’s foods are called osechi-ryori, and are traditionally packed in layered lacquer boxes called jubako, which are similar to bento boxes. The dish depends on the area, but some common dishes include kuromame (simmered black soy beans), kurikinton (mashed sweet potato with sweet chestnuts), tazukuri (candied dried sardines), renkon (lotus roots) and shrimp.

Each dish and ingredient holds meaning. Some dishes are said to bring good health, others a good harvest, happiness, prosperity, longevity, etc. Traditionally, yellow dishes and ingredients such as kazunoko (herring roe) symbolize prosperity, while mame (beans) are for good health. Usually, people make osechi dishes by New Year’s Eve to last through the first few days of the year so that they won’t have to cook during the celebration days.

At Morikami we’ll serve our own take on a few of these New Year’s flavors, as well as traditional mochi cakes straight from our the rice pounding ceremony. (We’ll also serve a few familiar American festival favorites.) No matter what, there will be plenty to taste!

NEW YEAR’S EATS AT OSHOGATSU

This year, as a special treat, the Cornell Café will serve a dish called chirashizushi. Traditionally, this is a festive dish served on special occasions, and loosely translates to “scattered sushi.” Ours includes tuna and salmon sashimi with shrimp, snow peas, carrots and a symbol of longevity in the new year – an origami crane. On festival grounds we’ll offer some other New Year’s eats like soba noodles and coconut shrimp!

Soba is a traditional noodle dish, made from buckwheat noodles in a hot soup, and symbolizes wishes for good luck in the year ahead. Shrimp is also an important symbolic food for New Year’s and is believed to promote longevity. Some say this is because shrimp have curved backs like the very elderly. Check out our food page as the event gets closer for more on what we’ll be serving up as well as full menus.

THE RICE POUNDING CEREMONY

Mochitsuki—the rice pounding ceremony – is essential to Oshogatsu, and is one of our favorite parts of the festivities. Traditionally, mochitsuki begins the day before by soaking the mochigome (sweet rice paste). The next day, the mochigome is ready to be steamed in the seiro (a wooden steaming frame) and then put into the usu, a large mortar made from wood, stone or concrete. The hot rice paste is then pounded with a kine ,a big wooden hammer, until smooth and shiny.

One of the most exciting parts of mochisutki is watching the cooperation between the person pounding and the person assisting (who quickly darts his or her hand into the usu and turns the rice before the next rhythmic pound of the hammer). It takes some coordination to get it right, but once the mochi is smooth and consistent in texture it’s placed onto a mochiko (sweet rice flour) covered surface, and small portions are pinched off, formed into balls, flattened and then set aside to cool until ready to eat.

At Morikami we perform the rice-pounding ceremony a few times throughout the day in order for everyone to get a chance to see and participate in the spectacle.

Tune in next week for a special New Year’s edition of Vlogs With Veljko where he’ll tell us about a very special Japanese New Year’s tradition- Nengajo!

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