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January 20, 2014

Rice cake pounding festivals for the New Year

Rice cake pounding at Wako

On January 17, rice cake pounding festivals—a traditional New Year's tradition in Japan—were held on the Wako and Yokohama campuses.

At these rice cake pounding events, known as mochitsuki in Japanese, participants use large wooden mallets to pound rice that is placed in a wooden mortar. One person pounds the rice with a mallet while the other, usually kneeling, has to flip the rice cake over while carefully avoiding being hit with the mallet.

The rice cakes are then decorated with condiments such as sweet bean paste.

They turned out to be popular events, with many employees stopping by after work to enjoy the mochi cakes and to try their hand at pounding the rice. At Wako, the main cafeteria was filled with researchers and their families. In Yokohama, the event was held for the first time ever, attracting a bigger crowd than initially expected.

The events were organized by the Kyosaikai, or Mutual Benefit Society, an organization that provides welfare services to employees working at RIKEN.