Inku
Japan Society of Fairfield County
Oshogatsu 2011

Oshogatsu Dignitaries      The Japan Society of Fairfield County welcomed 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, with a traditional Oshogatsu Festival.  JSFC Director Marilyn Moore served as our Master of Ceremonies and introduced JSFC president Harry Sakamaki. Mr. Yasuhisa Kawamura, Deputy Consul General and Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in New York, opened the ceremonies.  Yumi McDonald, newly elected vice president of programs at JSFC led a champagne toast to the new year.  Also attending were Mr. Gregory Boyko, Honorary Consul General of Japan in Connecticut; Takashi Aoki, Consul at the Consulate General of Japan in Boston; and Masakazu Kigure, newly appointed Consul for Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of Japan in New York.  We presented awards of appreciation to Tomoyuki Mitsui, principal of the Greenwich Japanese School and his wife Keiko, and to Keiji Inoue, Director of the Japan Education Center. They will be returning to Japan soon and we will miss them.
     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 Zotos International and the Consulate General of Japan in Boston.
     Naoki Achiwa, JSFC membership chair, led the introduction of members and attendees.
Yoshiro Kono dancing      Yoshiro Kono performed the dance Matsu no Midori (Everlasting Green of the Pine Tree)
Mr. Kevin Green's Presentation      JET Alumni Kevin Green gave a wonderful talk about his experiences as an assistant English teacher in Japan and how he is making use of that experience in his current position as an elementary school teacher in New York City. The JET program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under CLAIRE which promotes direct community to community contacts.  Under this program college graduates from the US and Canada are send to Japan for a year or two to assist in teaching English in the Japanese public schools, especially in outlying areas.  Mr.Green was assigned to Shimonoseki in prefecture of Yamaguchi on the southern tip of Honshu, the main island of Japan.  In addition to his responsibilities for English instruction, his musical talents were called upon for an after school music program.
    Naoki Achiwa lead us in a traditional group sing accompanied by Noriko Kumada. We performed Green Leaves, Nada Sousou (Shedding tears), and Shonon Jidai(Boyhood).
    We then started two events simultaneously.  Christina Di Marco had a demonstration of sumi nagashi - ink floating on water.  Many of our members were able to try their hand at this process in which an intricate ink pattern is created on the surface of water and transferred to a sheet of paper.  Many patterns are possible and often resemble the pattern in a polished marble slab.
     Keiji Inoue, Jim McDonald, and Koito Karlon simultaneously led a mochitsuki.   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). Pounding mochi 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.  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 katakuriko (now usually potato starch but traditionally from the corm of a lily). Anko (red 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.  Red and white are the traditional colors of celebration in Japan. Plain balls were also served after being rolled in kinako , which is a  mixture of sugar and ground soy bean prepared by Junko Uezumi, Kazumi Inoue, and Hiroko Sakamaki.  This year one of our three batches of mochi was pink, symbolizing ...  Mochi is best when fresh, and thanks to the help from the wives of the faculty of the Greenwich Japanese School, we were able to enjoy our own freshly pounded mochi this new year.
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