Japan Society of Fairfield County
Oshogatsu 2005

Bento Map intro Our event began with introductory remarks by Nina Streitfeld, President of The Japan Society of Fairfield County, followed by greetings from the First Selectwoman of New Canaan, Judy Neville, and greetings from Yoshihiro Nikaido, Deputy Consul General and Director of the Japan Information Agency at the Consulate General of Japan in New York.
Our own vice president, Noboru Uezumi, led us in a champagne toast to the new year, the year of the rooster and the seventeenth year of Heisei.  We then enjoyed a fabulous meal prepared by Hiroyuki "James" Nagata and his staff at the Plum Tree Restaurant (  Table gifts were provided by Robert Seidl, President and CEO of Zotos International.

Alice dancing Alice A superb classical Japanese dance performance was presented by Alice Kaori McDonald.  The performance was introduced by Kyoko
 Ohnishi, her dance instructor.  Alice's mother, Yumiko, served as Kouken during the dance, providing the required props.

Classical Japanese dance originated on the Kabuki stage in the 16th century.  The Soke Fujima School has been a leading force within Japanese dance and its grand masters have choreographed  Kabuki and Kabuki dance-drama for generations. Kyoko Ohnishi holds a master’s certificate from the Soke Fujima School and gives lectures, demonstrations, and performances for educational institutions, and teaches dance in Connecticut and New York.

FUJIMUSUME (The Wisteria Maiden) is one of the most famousAlice & Yumiko Kabuki dance-dramas.  The first two of its three sections were presented.  In the first section, the Spirit of Wisteria is allowed to assume the form of young girl.  As the Wisteria Maiden, she dances with a branch of wisteria flowers.
In the second section, she expresses her happiness and imagines how she will look as a bride. As she prays for her dream to come true, a gong summons her back to the spirit world, and she is transformed back into Wisteria.
Kouken transfer necessary stage props to and from the performer at the right time on stage. Therefore Kouken must know the dance and its music, in order to do this important duty. It requires moving about sideways as inconspicuously as possible on the stage, so the performer would not be distracted.

Yoshiyuki Muratani and Harry Sakamaki then led us in a mochitsuki demonstration.  Mochi balls aremochi mashing traditionally made for the new year from sweet rice pounded into a smooth paste.  This is done in an usu using kine (mallets).  Our usu was made from the trunk of a tree and loaned to us by the Greenwich Japanese School.  The steamed rice grains are first broken up by essentially stirring them with the mallet head.  They are then pounded to develop the proper consistency.  After pounding, the rice paste is squeezed off into small balls.  In order to prevent the rice paste from sticking to the hands of the persons working, it is sprinkled with mochitoriko (rice) flour.  Bean paste can be rolled into the center of the mochi ball, but ours were served with the bean paste on the side.  Plain balls were rolled in kinako, which is a  mixture of sugar and ground soy bean.  It is also customary to roll 2 larger mochi balls which are stacked with a mikan orange on top into an okazari.  This is also  called a “kagami-mochi”, literally, a "mirror mochi" where village worshippers believed that a god resides within a mirror.  This looks somewhat like a snowman and is used as an offering to remember departed relatives.  Mochi is best when fresh, and we were able to enjoy our own freshly pounded mochi this new year.
mochi pounding mochi rolling Alice and mochi All Photographs courtesy of Syd Greenberg
Return to Recent Programs
Return to Main Menu