Originally published on 1st January 2016 on Blogger
It was an early start, on account of the fact that there was much mochi to be made today. All the kids (my 2, Maki’s 2 and Maki’s brother’s 3) had toast and cereal and yoghurt, while Maki’s mum made me a beautiful traditional breakfast of roasted, crispy skin salmon, rice, miso and pickles. My favourite breakfast now.
Mochi is a traditional glutinous rice cake, eaten year round, but particularly on New Years Day. It is traditionally pounded with a massive and heavy wooden hammer, however Maki’s mum, with six big bowls of rice soaked overnight to prepare, uses a machine which cooks the rice and then kneads it (much like a bread maker). It is incredibly sticky. This activity went on throughout the morning and continued after lunch. Between preparing the red bean paste, which goes inside the mochi, and rolling the mochi, I took a walk down to Maki’s grandfather’s garden. It is a spectacular garden, which has won many awards. The most important of which was awarded him by the Emperor of Japan at the Imperial Palace. I sat in the sun, pondering the year that was coming to a close, and the new one about to begin. My life has changed immeasurably since Michael died. My third New Year without him. I have also changed. 2015 saw a massive change in my life, having spent seven weeks of the year in Japan and seven months learning the language. It has certainly had an impact on my life. I feel that my time here, and the experience with the kids, has made me more aware of my strength, and Mya’s, and our propensity toward happiness. If nothing else, I hope my children inherit my wonder of the world and my belief that happiness is a choice.
Once again, I’m going off track. Somehow, during all the mochi making, Maki’s mum had whipped up an amazing lunch of rice, chicken stew (maybe the best I have ever had), tempura vegetables and squid. Oh my goodness….. Maki and I had picked the broccoli from the garden that morning. Everything was so fresh. It was amazing. Maki’s mum’s vegetable garden is quite incredible. She is aiming to be self sufficient and grows many vegetables, as well as rice and fruit. She is so vital and healthy, and busy!!!
After the mochi was finished, we packed our bags and headed to the Kochi Castle. As it was a public holiday, the castle was closed, but the grounds are very pretty and the view is spectacular. Maki, Finn, Maki’s mum, Hiroto and I looked around, while Mya, Lancy, Chelsea, Narumi and Mae went downtown to do purikura…..Japanese sticker photo booth.
We met back at the station, and Maki, Lancy, Chelsea and Mya got on the bus back to Kyoto. Finn and I had an hour and a half before our train, so Maki’s mum took us for coffee…..with Narumi, Mae and Hiroto. The conversation was broken English, broken Japanese and lots of laughing. Hiroto had become very attached to Finn, following him around for most of the time we were there. Now we were leaving he was throwing his arms around Finny saying, “I love you, Finn”. He is sooooo cute…..
We bid our farewells, with me feeling like my Japanese ability was totally insufficient to convey my gratitude. Finn and I nearly missed our train, sat in the wrong seat, changed trains, sat in the wrong seat again, and then changed trains again. We met back with Maki and all the girls at around midnight, after a very packed couple of days adventure. All exhausted….. Time for some sleep.