Japan Society of Fairfield County
The Japan Society of Fairfield County welcomed 2013, the Year of the
Snake, with a traditional Oshogatsu Festival. JSFC Director
Mayumi Kleinman was Master of Ceremonies and introduced JSFC
president Vernon Beck. Mr. Fumio Iwai, Deputy Consul General and
Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of
Japan in New York, opened the ceremonies and was followed by Mr.
Greg Boyko, Honorary Consul General of Japan in
Connecticut. Also attending were Mr. Nobuyuki Watanabe, Deputy
Consul General at the Consulate General of Japan in Boston; and Mr.
Masakazu Kigure, Consul for Cultural Affairs at the Consulate
General of Japan in New York. Mito Mardin, our new membership
chair, introduced new members. Mito Mardin, vice president of JSFC,
led a sake toast to the new year.
We then enjoyed a fabulous meal prepared by Chef Taka
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 Ron
Krassin, Chairman and CEO of Zotos International.
Our entertainment program began with classical
Japanese Dance by Fujima Konishiki, our own Kyoko Ohnishi, licensed
instructor of the Soke Fujima School of Dance which is over 300
years old. She began by discussing uses of the fan in her dance and
then had audience members join her in using fans as imaginary
lawn rakes to rake in happiness, good fortune, and good health for
the new year. Her first performance was
Kotobuki (Congratulatory Dance). Ohnishi-sensei learned
her next dance during her latest trip to Japan and Soke
Fujima. Since this dance was just developed by the Grand
Master of the Soke Fujima School, this was an area premier of
Ume no Kaori (The Fragrance of Plum Blossoms).
followed by a talk: "My Sensei Experience" by new member Fred
Maupin. Fred spent over 5 years working in Okinawa as a
JET. The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, now in its
26th year, is aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange
between Japan and other nations. Recent college graduates are
hired to work in Japan as assistants to regular classroom teachers
to help teach foreign languages, predominantly English.
Atsuko Giampaoli and Koito Karlon led our
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). 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. This year
Masakazu Kigure, cultural attache, was our lead pounder 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.
Our mochi was served with kinako on top. Kinako is a
mixture of sugar and ground soy beans and also was prepared by
Atsuko. Mochi is best when fresh, and we were able to
enjoy our own freshly pounded mochi this new year.
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