Mochi is a soft and sticky rice cake made of Mochigome rice (glutinous rice). It is a traditional Japanese sweet that every tourist should try it during their trip to Japan. Often mochi is considered to be one of the finest seasonal treats in Japanese cuisine. Have you ever tasted a mochi before? How was your feeling while chewing it for the first time in your life? I bet it was great and you want some more, don’ you? Bear in mind, don’t swallow it at once, you will be in real danger then, in fact, your life is important!

Nakatanidou’s chewy Yomogi mochi. Photo Credit: Elena Gurzhiy at Flickr.

Even though the rice is pounded into paste and molded perfectly into the desired shape, making mochi would remain insignificant if someone who tries it and fails to eat it in a perfect manner, at least don’t choke! If you are wondering about mochi and how it is made, then the following interesting facts about mochi can reveal everything related to it. At least you will have some very good ideas about what mochi is, how it is made, mochi related events, and so on. So, enjoy reading it!

1) Staring with a shocking fact! People actually could die and get injured while eating mochi. A list of people died from choking on mochi in Japan, though it especially occurs to among aging people. So, if you ever come to Japan with your grandparents, make sure you let them eat mochi after cutting it into small pieces. Always beware!

2) Although it could kill someone, seriously people love eating it. What is the cause of it? Can you leave a food alone when it has a remarkable taste and gives you a lot of pleasure? Yes, mochi is that sort of food dish that you cannot leave behind. It’s sweet and incredibly delicious! After all the taste depends on its texture, and the rice it is made of.

Making mochi with an usu and kine in Nara. Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons.

3) Mochitsuki, an important traditional event of the Japanese New Year takes place at the end of the year from around December 25 to 28. It is nothing but pounding the rice to make mochi. To get the job done at least two persons are required with all sort of mochi making tools such as Usu (traditional mortar), Usudai (usu pedestal), and Kine (wooden mallets).

4) The mochigome rice is washed and soaked in water overnight before the Mochitsuki event comes about.

5) Performing mochitsuki sounds simple but in real scenario it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort with a consistent rhythm pounding the rice. If one of the participants fails to catch the rhythm something bad going to be happened, it may injure someone, especially the handler who flips the rice ball around very often and adds water on it.

You know what? He/she adds water because it prevents the mochi from sticking to the mallets or hands. The more one keeps pounding the mochi, the more it gets viscid and stretchy texture. In fact, if you pounding it constantly, the mochi will have more air bubbles in it. Air and water is without question the important ingredients of mochi.

6) Often it is said that witnessing mochi making process is much more interesting and entertaining than eating it. In fact, mochi making is full of fun and one can enjoy experiencing it every minute of the day until the job is done.

Kagami mochi – New Year decoration. Photo Credit: midorisyu at Flickr.

7) Mochi is not always used for eating. People use it as a decorative motif as well. In Japanese culture, there is a traditional New Year decoration known as Kagami mochi that literally means mirror mochi rice cake. It looks beautiful as it’s decorated with two round shaped mochi and a daidai (Japanese orange).

Two mochi and a daidai are used to make a Kagami mochi. The daidai is placed on top of the two mochi in which the smaller (mochi) placed on the top of the larger one. Then it is placed in various locations throughout the house usually from around the end of the year to January 11. In the past, Kagami mochi was traditionally made at home, but now you can find them at various supermarket stores throughout Japan.

Watch a video on How to make mochi and imagine how fast they could prepare mochi for you!

8) On January 11, the Japanese break the ornamental mochi (Kagami mochi) and have it for good fortune and health. This traditional Japanese New Year ceremony is called Kagami Biraki.

9) How long a mochi could long last? Or can you imagine its storage capability? Japanese actually don’t like to freeze them for long, instead they enjoy it fresh. Though, after eating mochi on January 11, the surplus can be put in the fridge for a couple of weeks. One should not keep them for that long in the refrigerator, but only a few days to get the actual flavor and taste.

Delicious sakura-mochi. Photo Credit: mama hiro at Flickr.

10) Eating mochi in winter is much more popular than eating it other time of the year. Though no worries, you can have it at any time you want during your trip to Japan.

11) According to my experience, mochi comes in many varieties, not less than 10! In fact, there are more mochi varieties you can find in Japan at the supermarkets. Some mochi are especially made as part of seasonal treat, for example, people usually eat sakuamochi in the spring, and while on the other hand, Hishi mochi is eaten during the day of Hinamatsuri, also called Girl’s Day or Doll’s Day. If you like eating strawberries, you would also like to have Ichigo Daifuku, another kind of sweet mochi! In addition, Kashiwa Mochi is enjoyed on Children’s Day.

12) Mochi looks similar to Dango, but they are different! The fact is that dango is made from dried rice flour not mochigome rice.

Mochi ice cream – a popular Japanese summer snack. Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons.

13) Mochi provides a lot of calories with free gluten and cholesterol! And that’s for why Japanese farmers usually eat it during the winter months to increase their stamina in the harsh winter weather.

14) The exact origin of mochi is still unknown though the custom of using rice cake as part of New Year’s festivity appeared during the Heian period (794-1185).

15) Nakatanidou, the famous mochi shop in Nara that offers usually yomogi mochi to its customers, lets you witness mochitsuki. You will see how elegantly they make mochi in front of the viewers who eagerly wait to see all the activities of making mochi. The guys of the shop are best known for making fastest mochi in the country.

Mochi is one of the very important essential parts of Japanese confectionery. If you love eating Japanese sweets of various kinds, you would also love to consume mochi’s utterly unique flavors and tastes. Thanks for reading!