You know it’s getting to be that time of the year again, when Jean E. Monnier calls in late October and says, “Shouldn’t we have our first mochi meeting soon?” She’s referring, of course, to the 16th annual Wailea Village Mochi Pounding from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28. Monnier is the master organizer with her notes, charts and evaluations for at least the past seven mochi poundings.
Or how about when Charlene Asato emails and says, in mid-November, “We’ll be gone, so do you want me to start on the poster now?” (She’s the talented poster designer and artist/photographer.)
Or when Jon Hayashi, leader of Boy Scout Troop 78, asks, “Do you want Troop 78 to help with mochi pounding?” (They’re great “mashers!”)
Or when Milton Yafuso of the Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko group asks, “What time do you want us to perform and how long?”
Or when Kehaulani Lum and Wally Oki quietly send their donations to make possible the hiring of a policeman to direct parking at Hakalau Park, the purchasing of all the mochi rice supplies, food for volunteers, posters and the paying for all of the other expenses.
You know “it’s that time again” when Clara Ogawa Carvalho, who was born and raised in Wailea and lives across the street from Akiko’s B&B, asks, “So what you like me cook for the workers?” By that time, you know we’re getting very serious. We are getting down to feeding the work force — the many, many, many helpers and work hands that make mochi pounding happen year after year for the past 16 years. Seven to 10 Honolulu helpers fly in to be part of the work force; they are just some of the many who make the annual pilgrimage to Wailea.
What excitement and great fellowship is experienced by us all, working closely together, eating together, sleeping together in close quarters. The day before the event, the guys work with Clyde Chinen, Brad Kurokawa and Jim Rynders, setting up the tents and benches (borrowed from Josephine Rabago) at the mochi pounding area, getting the two stone “usu” or mortars (one from the late Masaichi Chinen), kinei (rice pounders), red wood steamer boxes, and TD Mendoza’s homemade “stoves,” in place.
The 85 pounds of mochi rice have been soaked and rinsed for three days prior to the event. Last year, Linda Jensen faithfully and diligently washed all the rice, careful not to lose a single grain. While the men are busy outside, the women and a few men are in the kitchen, guided by Miyo Harumi of Miyo’s Restaurant, chopping and peeling vegetables for the chicken and vegetarian hekka, which have become part of the mochi pounding event’s $5 plate-lunch tradition; a price “fixed” and unchanging over time. And, 640 red bean paste “anko” balls have to be rolled for the red bean mochi.
When evening comes, a quiet lull settles at Akiko’s B&B, and everyone is in bed early in preparation for the big day ahead. At 5 a.m. Saturday morning, the coffee water goes on, and by 6 a.m. Jim Rynders, the official fire starter, ignites the wood with his hefty propane torch. That fire will steam the plump sweet mochi rice, which will be pounded into a silky, smooth mass by spectators and seasoned mochi pounders, and then shaped into round rice cakes by well-experienced mochi shapers such as Arlene Goto Yonamine and many helpers.
Wailea Village — usually a sleepy plantation town of about 10-12 households — comes alive on Mochi Pounding Day. There will be a variety of ongoing activities: Hakalau seniors and their handmade crafts; tasty goodies; gorgeous sprays of orchids from Rayna and Ken Armour of Hakalau Orchidworks; used books from the Hakalau community; Kohala’s Nani and Puna Svendson’s New Year’s flower arrangements; pottery by a hui of Hamakua potters — Peter Black, Suzanne Wang and Marion Nipper; “I Ching” readers led by Bodhi Tara and friends; insightful fortune-telling and palm reading by Maile Yamanaka, Keri Yamamoto and other local masseurs; goodies and crafts from the Japanese Club at the Hawaii Community College; Charlene Asato’s beautiful Oriental cards and horse dolls and ornaments for the Year of the Horse, and many more surprises.
For entertainment, Lito Archangel, who has become part of our annual mochi-pounding tradition, will share his soulful music beginning at 9:45 a.m. The keiki of Hula Halau Na Lei Hiwa Hiwa O Ku‘u Aloha under Kumu Sammye Young will perform at 11:10 a.m. Shortly before noon, Dwight Takamine will share his New Year’s inspirations. At noon, the Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko Group will boom in the new year.
So come to Wailea, and pound some mochi for good luck. Walk back in time to an old plantation village where very little has changed, share and eat $5 plate lunches with family and friends, receive prayers and blessings from our “community aunties” at the Temple of Gratitude, write down your hopes for the new year, and feel deeply the country air, the old main street and what makes our Hawaii so very special.
To get there, drive on Highway 19 to mile-marker 15 and follow the red “mochi” signs. Park at the Hakalau Park, and kindly walk to Wailea village. Drivers may drop off kupuna and the handicapped at Akiko’s, then return to park at Hakalau Park. Many will come. View Marilyn Lamoreux’s slide show that she created last year at http://marilynlamoreux.com/tag/mochi-pounding.
There is a new date for the Honokaa Elementary School Community Council December meeting. It will be this Tuesday, instead of on the usual meeting day, the last Tuesday of the month. Meeting time is 4 p.m. For specific location on campus, please check in at the office. Parents, friends and community members are welcome. Please come and be a part of our Honokaa Elementary Ohana.
This month we will review the school’s financial plan. A copy will be available in the office for viewing and input. This month, the Public Access Room (the “PAR”) will conduct free neighborhood workshops entitled, “We the Powerful!” These meetings are designed to demystify the state lawmaking process, and will demonstrate ways that people can speak out at the legislature without ever having to leave the Big Island. All are welcome. No registration or prior experience is required.
There are two sessions to attend: Part 1 (first hour): “How the Legislative Process Works (and How to Work It)” and Part 2 (second hour): “Digging Deeper (interactive session) — Delving further into the legislature’s website and other resources.”
Come at 6 p.m. on either Tuesday, Dec. 17, to the Thelma Parker Library conference room in Waimea, or on Wednesday, Dec. 18, to the Laupahoehoe Library conference room.
Carol Yurth’s column is published every Sunday and spotlights activities on the Hilo-Hamakua coast. She welcomes items for her column. Reach her by mail (46-1250 Kalehua Road, Honokaa HI 96727) at least 10 days before the requested publication date, call her at 775-7101, or e-mail email@example.com.