mochitsuki dance

Mochi, sticky sweet rice, is a popular treat over the New Year’s period. Mochitsuki is the process of making the mochi; pounding the rice rice into a glutinous mush. It is generally translated as “rice cake making”. The process is so laborious that it became common for families, even communities, to work together, taking turns to pound the rice. From this evolved the mochitsuki dance, a beautiful unique to Japan event where teams in festival garb rhythmically dance while pounding the rice. The three mochitsuki dance events in this post, take place annually for New Years, in early January.

Saitama Prefecture Mochitsuki Dance

  1. Nisshin Mochitsuki dance, Saitama City – January 1st.
  2. Fujinami Mochitsuki dance, Ageo – January 1st.
  3. FEATURE Minami Otsuka Mochitsuki dance, Kawagoe – January 7th 2024.

1. Nisshin Mochitsuki dance

The Nisshin Mochitsuki dance is a very special New Years event in Saitama City. It is a cultural property of the City, as is the Sashiogi Mochitsuki dance, but the Sashiogi Mochitsuki dance doesn’t appear to be on in 2024. The Nisshin Mochitsuki dance takes place at the very start of the New Year – from about ten minutes past midnight to about 12.40 am on January 1st annually. A team of dancers, in beautiful festival clothes, take turns dancing and pounding the rice. The event takes place at Nisshin Shrine in Saitama City. Official event page.

2. Fujinami Mochitsuki dance

Ageo city also have a mochitsuki dance that is an intangible folk cultural asset. The Fujinami mochitsuki dance originated late in the Edo era. The dance is performed at Fujinami Ten Shrine. They perform two types of dance, while singing. One is where they actually pound the rice and one where they just perform the motions. They also have additional traditional performances on the day. Moreover, people who visit Fujinami ten shrine on New Years day get to try some freshly made rice cakes. Official event page.

3. FEATURE: Minami Otsuka Mochitsuki Dance

Minami Otsuka Mochitsuki, with a history of more than 200 years, is held every year on the Sunday before Japan’s Coming-of-Age day (in January). The Minami Otsuka Mochi tsuki Dance is a designated Cultural property of Saitama Prefecture. Originally, this mochitsuki dance was on around the 7-5-3 festival in November annually. A wealthy family started it as a celebration for the 7-5-3 when they had a child of age. It is a celebratory blessing that closely resembles the religious Mansaku Odori (odori means dance). Nowadays, they celebrate the festival in Saifukuji Temple in the Minamiotsuka area of Kawagoe city.

Minami otsuka mochitsuki dance in Kawagoe at New Years

The festival is also called settaimochi and hikizurimochi, because they tie a rope from Saifukuji Temple to the neighboring Sugawara Shrine. They call it a “dance” because the pounders perform dance like ritualistic movements as they pound the rice. Each of the moves have a name. Moreover, they perform the pounding in harmony to music for several of the demonstrations, but there is also one performance when there is no song. That is the “Rokuteko” which is performed by six people.

The festival has been on TV several times over the years. Supposedly it was featured on a New Year special on NHK on January 1st 2023,. Unfortunately, I missed the report myself. If you are coming to the event, check out the delicious and affordable buffet lunch restaurant, Market Terrace, about a 20 minute walk from Saifukuji Temple.


2024 Information

Event: Saitama Prefecture Cultural Property Mochitsuki Odori (Dance) 県指定文化財 南大塚の餅つき踊り

Date: Sunday January 7th 2024. But please note: they cancelled it last minute in 2022, two days before the event. They put the notification on the dedicated web page for the event on Kawagoe City website.

Time: the event is on from around 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm

Cost: free to spectate, but (although voluntary) it is only polite to deposit a contribution in the prayer box of the temple.

Venue: Saifukuji Temple, 〒350-1162 Saitama, Kawagoe, Minamiotsuka, 2 Chome−3−11. View on Google Maps.

Access

About a ten minute walk from Seibu Shinjuku Line Minami-Otsuka Station. There is parking at the temple, but you won’t be able to use it on the day of the festival.

The photo for the Minami Otsuka event is from the Official web page. The featured photo at the top of the post is just a stock photo.

Editor’s note: 20230102 the-unique-new-year-minami-otsuka-mochitsuki-dance/

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