Mitsuba, the pre-k class, teaches children all sorts of things including customs of Japan. Over the past couple of months they had two special events.
In January it is a custom to make mochi, which is rice cake. Mochi is used in so many meals especially during the winter. Basically you beat the rice with a giant wooden mallet, adding warm water ever so often. In the end you have a every mushi blob. Each kid got the chance to pound the mochi. It was a very entertaining site watching these tiny children trying to hit the mochi with a mallet that was the size of them. After we finished making the mochi we feasted. We ate mochi in about four different ways. As with all Japanese food it was delicious!
|Some of the masks the kids made|
In February they have a custom where they throw soybeans at an evil creature, Oni, who is considered to be bad luck. By throwing the soybeans they are banishing the bad luck out and welcoming the good spirits in. To prepare for this custom the children made masks of Oni. Being the 2 and 3 years that they are, they came up with some very creative faces. Once all of the masks were made we prepared for Oni to come. The kids sat in two rows with their masks on their heads and peanuts (soybeans are too small for these children) in their hands. When the Oni came into the room about five of the children burst into tears. It was quite a site. Luckily the other children were up to the task and threw those peanuts at the Oni as if their life depended on it.
Going to Mitsuba twice a week I get an insight into Japanese culture, language and traditions. When I think about it, my understanding of the culture is at the same level as the two year olds. But they have a better handle on the language, well for now anyway.