Inku
Japan Society of Fairfield County
Oshogatsu 2008

cakeHarry Sakamaki, new elected president of The Japan Society of Fairfield County, opened Oshogatsu 2008.  This marks the 20th year of operation for the Japan Society of Fairfield County.  Shinji Urabayashi, Deputy Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in New York, gave our keynote address. We were also joined by Yuko Suzuki, Vice Consul General of Japan in New York. Vernon Beck, past president and currently vice president, was presented with a plaque honoring his 2 years service as president of JSFC.  Vernon then led us in a champagne toast to the new year, the year of the mouse and the twentieth year of Heisei. Our membership chair, Joyce Shinomiya,  led us in a group introduction to introduce new members. We then enjoyed a fabulous meal prepared by Hiroyuki "James" Nagata and his staff at the Plum Tree Restaurant.  Our meal was patterned after the traditional Osechi-Ryori enjoyed at New Year's celebrations and included many foods with symbolic significance. Table gifts were provided by Shuichi Tanaka, Chairman & CEO, Shiseido International, Inc., New York, New York.
Konishiki dancing Abe dancingJSFC Director Kaori O'Brien introduced our entertainment for the afternoon.
We enjoyed two classical dance presentations, both courtesy of our advisory board member Kyoko Ohnishi.  Her student, Yuika Abe, performed Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossom).  Ohnishi-sensei then performed Megumi no Tsuyu (Blessing Dew) under her stage name Fujima Konishiki.
A Shamisen performance by the group Kicho-Kai (Happy Butterfly) was next.  Ms. Yoko Arimura, Ms. Kumiko Martin,  Ms. Tomoko Takagi and Kyoko Ohnishi's shamisen performance was delightful. They played the pieces Matsu no Midori, Kotobuki, Dojyoji, and Fukagawa.
Shamisen Players Naoki Achiwa lead us in a group sing of traditional New Year's songs:  Hamabe no Ute (Song of Beach), Aoi Sanmyaku  (Blue Mountain Range), and Old Folks at Home , the Stephen Foster classic.

We ended our event by making mochitsuki led by Seiichi Shinomiya.   Mochi balls are traditionally made for the new year from sweet rice pounded into a smooth paste. The pounding is done in an usu (mortar) 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 pounded with a mallet to develop the proper consistency. Our rice had to go back to the kitchen for additional steaming to sufficiently soften all the grains of rice. Koito Karlon again had the somewhat hazardous job of turning the mochi between kine strokes.   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 mochiko (rice) flour. pounding mochi  Anko (bean paste), prepared by Atsuko Giampaoli, can be rolled into the center of the mochi ball, but ours were served with the anko on the side.  Plain balls were also served after being rolled in kinako , which is a  mixture of sugar and ground soy bean prepared by Junko Uezumi and Reiko Kawashima.   Mochi is best when fresh, and thanks to the help from the wives of the Greenwich Japanese School, we were able to enjoy our own freshly pounded mochi this new year. 
Photos courtesy Syd Greenberg, Amy Mortensen, and Ruairi McLaughlin.
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