Island residents and tourists alike congregated at the heart of Garapan last Saturday night to witness the annual Mochitsuki Festival, which is the Saturday bookend event of the 2013 Christmas in the Marianas festivities at the Paseo de Marianas.
Hundreds were entertained by the traditional dance steps of the Saipan Awaodori Team that added to already decidedly Japanese feel of the event.
Soon the beat of Awaodori drums was replaced by the pounding of Japanese glutinous rice, as people from all walks of life and from near and far took turns helping make the mochi.
Mochi is Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into desired shapes.
While eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time.
PDM Promotions president Misako Kamata was very happy about Saturday’s turnout and thanked everyone for making this year’s Mochitsuki Festival a success.
“I’m very happy. The Mochitsuki Festival is the Japanese way of celebrating the New Year. It’s a way of welcoming the New Year. We want to share the mochi to local people and tourists together at the same time,” she said.
PDM Promotions, Inc. director Hideaki Sawada echoed Kamata’s sentiments on why the Japanese hold the Mochitsuki Festival, although he said Saipan holds it a few days before Jan. 1 for convenience.
“The Mochitsuki Festival, we usually do it in New Year but Saipan we do it before the end of this month. Everybody is busy New Year here so we just do it right now,” he said.
Sawada explained that the Mochitsuki Festival is Christmas and New Year rolled into one in their home country.
“Mochitsuki Festival is very important in Japan. It’s some kind of tradition in New Year. Like American people they’re happy during Christmas. In Japan, our Christmas is the New Year and at the center of that is mochi.”
The Ukulele Jammers, Saipan Music and Dance, and a group from Green Meadow School also performed at the festival.
The winners of the 2013 Christmas in the Marianas caroling, float, and Christmas tree decoration contests were also announced at the festival.
Games and cultural activities such as yoyo, Kujibiki raffle, ring throw, and slipper toss were also conducted, while food and drink vendors that participated included Java Joe’s, Okadaya, Hula Girl, Lyn’s BBQ, Furasato Restaurant, and Kinpachi Restaurant.
Sponsors of the event were DFS Galleria Saipan, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, CNMI Public School System, Moby Dick Restaurant, Power 99, KKMP, Magic 100FM, MIS Enterprises, Inc. Marianas Visitors Authority, KCNM, and Kinpachi Restaurant.