At the Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine we learned all about Sugawara Michizane, who was a scholar and poet during the Heian period. He is known as the Shinto God of Learning, Tenjin. Near the Daizaifu Tenman-gu Shine we made the famous Umegae Mochi, which translates to English as plum rice dumpling. Although there is plum in the name of the mochi that we made, there was not actually plum in it. We learned that the plum in the names comes from the story that Sugawara Michizane’s beloved plum tree flew to Dazaifu from Kyoto when Sugawara Michizane was sent there. We also learned that Umegae Mochi is a specialty food that the Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine is known for. After learning about the history of the shrine and the Umegae mochi, we learned how to prepare the Umegae Mochi from two very kind ladies. They showed us how to flatten out the mochi in our hand and then how to use it to cover the big ball of red bean that was prepared for us. The mochi felt cold and stuck to our hands a little. After we covered the red bean with the mochi we shaped our Umegae Mochi into oval round balls.
We tried very hard to keep all the red bean contained inside our mochi but it was a little bit difficult. We then learned how to cook our Umegae mochi on the grill using this special tool that held the mochi over the fire. With the help of our mochi making teachers we cooked both sides of our mochi until they were a little brown on the outside and nice and crispy. Everyone really enjoyed making and eating the Umegae Mochi! They were so delicious, coming right off the fire. It was crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside! Wow! It was an amazing treat. Our two mochi making teachers were so nice. They helped us and made sure we were having a lot of fun!
This activity broadened our horizons because we all tried a new delicious Japanese dessert that most of us have never tried before. Although we tried many new foods in Japan this one was special because we learned about its history and helped prepare it ourselves! Although many of us have eaten mochi before since there is a big Japanese culture influence in Hawaii, this type of mochi was very unique and different from the mochi we usually eat.
This activity was a really great bonding experience for the group. Cooking together really brought us closer, and we all had a good time with each other. Just like in America cooking was a great activity to spend time with each other and to work as a team to make something yummy!