Sunday we spent the day at the in-laws performing a year-end mochi-making party. After soaking the rice grains overnite, they are drained, and then taken into the back yard.
Using a huge wooden mallet, someone pounds the grains in a bowl made from a single piece of tree trunk. One person pounds, while the other brave person turns the dough. Eventually, it becomes sticky.
Mochi is fairly tasteless. At the party it was served many ways– with anko (sweet beans), with grated daikon, with sesame paste, with walnut paste, and kinako (dry soy powder). My favorite is grilled (see above), soaked in soy sauce, and placed between some nori seaweed.
You have to see the movie to really understand how domestic and primitive mochi-making is.