It's a New Year's tradition to make/partake of mochi. Here in Tokyo, our building sponsored a demonstration of traditional mochi-making in which soaked white rice is pounded into a solid and sticky substance. The mochi dough is then rolled or shaped into bite sized portions and can be put in soup or more often is used as the base for a sweet, sticky desert. It can be dusted with sweet green tea powder or rolled and stuffed with an (sweet akuki bean paste). I think there are probably hundreds of "sweet" variations.
It was bitterly cold the morning we watched this demonstration. Max, rather than waiting in line to pound the mochi, begged to go to the nearby toy store. So no shots of him pounding. As you can see from the video, it's a highly orchestrated process of pounding and maneuvering and wetting the dough. Be careful or you might lose your hand.
mochi; mochiko [MOH-chee, MOH-chee-koh] A sweet, short-grained, very glutinous rice with a high starch content. Mochi is commonly used to make rice cakes, for which it is pounded in large tubs until it becomes extremely sticky. It is then formed into balls or squares, which can be found in Japanese markets. Mochi is also used in confections and rice dishes. Mochiko is a rice flour made from mochi.
This past Sunday we ventured out to Yokohama, a city of 3.6 million people that is a "suburb" of Tokyo. It was a quick train ride and then a nice walk to the harbor. Max fell asleep in the stroller, something he doesn't do much anymore. Rich took some nice photos and I meditated a bit.
Then we headed into Chinatown for lunch and steamed buns. Check out this crazy bun steamer. And the crazy people waiting in line to eat at a hole in the wall restaurant.
Then we found the cool temple with crazy green dragons on top. They were a big hit with Max.
We made the switch. Out with the crib, in with the bed. All to very little fanfare, actually. So far no problem sleeping in and staying in the bed. (That will soon change, I imagine, as Max realizes that he doesn't need me to take him out of bed.) For now, the delusion persists.
Next up: Getting serious about the toilet training thing.
Heather, Rich and Max spent Christmas in Saipan, part of the Northern Marianas chain of islands. Our trip would combine some good old-fashioned R&R and a dose of history with intentions to visit the World War II memorials commemorating the Battle of Saipan. For more on the battle, visit http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1770.html
It took about 3 and a half hours to fly from Tokyo to Guam. When our plane was ready, we exited the terminal into 80 degree weather and sunshine, schlepped across the tarmac and boarded a small turboprop airplane en route to Saipan.
Luckily we had a smooth half hour flight and touched down at Saipan "International" Airport intact. There were about a dozen people on the flight and the tiny airport was empty when we arrived so we quickly passed through customs and got a cab outside and headed to our hotel.
Well, things took a downturn when Max came down with a fever on the 24th. Some children's Motrin brought it down but it spiked after dinner at (103.4) and he grew listless and began breathing rapidly so we took a taxi to the hospital. Luckily the hospital was just a few minutes away and we were seen quickly. The diagnosis was an ear infection so Max was given a dose of antibiotics and we were given a prescription to fill on Christmas morning.
Spending Christmas Eve in the ER was depressing enough, but we were in and out fairly quickly. We passed a difficult night with Max up on the hour. But we made the best of things and Max had a Christmas stocking the next morning and managed to get through the remaining days fairly well doped up on alternating doses of Tylenol and Motrin and the amoxicillin.
Throughout the remainder of the week, we did the best we could to keep Max comfortable, enjoy the beach and the pool and take a tour of some of the WWII historical sights. We visited the Last Command Post which was an eerie place with plants and trees growing through an abandoned tank and various very large guns. We saw Banzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff, where Japanese families and soldiers jumped to their death rather than surrender to the Americans. It was certainly a haunting and melancholy experience.
On a happier note, we took a boat ride out to Managaha Island for snorkeling, played a lot by the pool and saw some nice sunsets.
If you check the right side of this blog, you'll see a photostream available on Flickr. Just click through the picture to reach a series of albums about our trip.
Heather, Rich and Max moved from Maplewood, New Jersey to Tokyo in February 2008. It's hard to believe we've been here a year and a half. Officially, we should head home in February 2010 but the big mystery is will we stay longer.