Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hinamatsuri [Japanese Girl's Day]: Traditions, Clothes, and Mochi

I love the cherry blossom season. We get it a little early in Los Angeles and since my parents are the only ones on the block who HAS a Sakura tree it's not quite the same as what you'd see in DC or Japan.  I still love how beautiful and delicate our tree looks! More than just simple beauty, it also gives me the leaves for my sakura mochi.
Why are you people tormenting me in this get up??
I don't know how many years my mom set up my Ohinasama display [the dolls you see in the background] and dressed me in a Kimono for Girl's Day, but the one thing I do remember is the Sakura Mochi. My mom used to make sakura mochi once a year for Girl's Day. That meant I had to stuff my chubby little face with as much mochi as I could handle on that ONE SINGLE DAY. I actually wasn't chubby (despite appearances in these photos to the contrary) and had a dismally small appetite but on that one day every year...I was a total gamer. 

oh, wait...you're going to give me sakura mochi?? YESSSSSS!

Sometime after elementary school, my mom stopped making sakura mochi for me. Every year since then I've casually hinted in big, loud words, "MOM, MAKE ME SAKURA MOCHI...PLEASE" to no avail - hell, my birthday is literally within two weeks of Girl's Day and she still won't make it for me. 

This year I mentioned to my mom that I was going to make sakura mochi and  she exclaims, "I want to make it, too!!" My momma didn't raise no fool.  My mom wants to make some, then I'm going over to her house to learn how to make it from the one who gave me my first taste! 

My mom offered to prepare the rice for the mochi so I offered to make the Anko.  My mom laughed out loud and I quickly realized the folly of my words. I looked over at my mom and said, "Geez.  That may have been a bad idea, huh?" She said, "well, I guess we'll see..." [As you can see, my mom has total confidence in my mad skills]. I would've made the white kind, which actually goes better with sakura mochi but I didn't have those kinds of beans.

My family is from the Okayama area of Japan...we're country people. As such, we really don't care for the pounded smooth, pretty mochi from the Tokyo area - I prefer the craggly rough rice textured mochi from the Kansai area, which just so happens to be the easier kind to make.

Tsubushi An Recipe:
1 cup Azuki Beans [available at Health Food Stores or Asian Markets]
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
Pinch Salt

Wash beans in cold water.  Bring beans to a boil  in a saucepan [faster if you cover with a lid] then drain water.  Add 3 cups of water and bring beans to a simmer over medium heat and cook until soft, stirring every so often [again, covering pot with a lid].  If the water evaporates before the beans are soft, add just a LITTLE bit of water [most of the liquid should be evaporated by the time its fully cooked]. Once it's cooked, add sugar, stirring the mixture, breaking up the beans so that most of the beans have been ground/mashed.

Mochi Recipe:
3 cups of Sweet Rice
Red food coloring
6 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
salted preserved cherry leaves [pickle YOUNG leaves in salty water...my mom only had mature leaves, which are WAY too tough to eat]

Wash rice very thoroughly until clear.  Soak rice in water, dropping a few drops of red food coloring until the rice looks pink. Let sit for 4 hours. You can either steam the rice until cooked or cook it with ample water in a rice cooker. [this photo would've been a lot sharper but for the fact that my mom's a total spaz & doesn't understand that "photos" are not "moving pictures".]

Add 6 tablespoons sugar and pinch salt to rice and mix thoroughly crushing the rice as you mix.  [Again, "stop" does not mean anything to my mom.  She tell me that she's too busy to slow down.  Uhhh...heelllloooo...YOU'RE RETIRED.]

My mom taught me to use plastic cling wrap to lay about 2 Tablespoons of rice on, flattening out so that it's an oval shape so that the rice doesn't stick to my hands.  

Place about 2 teaspoons of tsubushi an in the center.
Fold the rice in half sealing the ends together.  

wrap with leaf and enjoy!


  1. I love a traditional mochi! Happy hinamatsuri to you! (such a cute little girl :) I have to get on with "translating" that Japanese book of traditional mochi I bought... gulp.

  2. HAHAHA!!! so do i!!! i've got like 5 or 6 books!!

    i think i'm going to have to start stalking Dosanko Debbie!

  3. YOUR MOM HAS SAKURA RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?!? AND I'M MISSING THEM?!?!?!?!?!? AAAAAAAAAAAAH! Ok, what would we do without plastic wrap for things like sakura mochi and onigiri? Sheesh, we'd be upa creek without a paddle! I'm practically licking the screen right now...

  4. the final product looks fanstastic..love how it's wrapped in the pickled leaves

  5. Jen, Great meeting you this weekend. I can't believe you made your own sakura mochi. Your mom rocks. My mom goes to Nigiya. - mary the food librarian

  6. FM: Right?? i'd have my hands glued together with rice! ;)

    RC: thanks! although my mom pointed out to me that I wrapped it with the wrong side showing...

    FL: Thank you so much! it's pretty easy and I *KNOW* you can make it! great meeting you & hope to see you again!!

  7. What a GREAT post, so cute to have mother and daughter working together! I also love the cherry blossom picture, but love the picture of you as a little girl so much more! I am so happy that I finally got a chance to meet you this past week, I look forward to many more encounters!

  8. Happy (belated) Hinnamatsuri Day to you! What a fantastic post! & such gorgeous fotos!

  9. OMG Jenny!! ADORABLE lil' girl!!!

  10. HA HA Jen ... I remember that photo at the top .. I think I was there, If I recall correctly your mom had to keep holding you up from tipping over (see arm in photo) LOL ...

  11. oh NOOOOO! i thought it was there to stop me from escaping!! HAHAHAHAHA


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