Last year during late summer I had a friend invite me to hang out with her while she worked at a Ginza Holiday festival at the Midwest Buddhist Temple. It was their 56th annual japanese holiday festival. It was a fundraiser for the temple and tons of fun. For a small donation of about $10 her roommate and I got into the temple grounds and to walk past a stage where people were performing, showing their skills of judo, aikido, and taiko. They had stands selling pottery and different art from Japan. Most of the back of the temple grounds had been turned into space for food stands and places to sit and eat. The food was available to purchase only through tickets and we found our friend at the Udon station just in time to order some and then huddle under the tent as it began to hail. There was another stand with a chicken teriyaki stand and many other kinds of food, drink and desserts. Later after the hail stopped and we went exploring I tried kintoki, a shaved ice dessert covered in sweet beans while we watched the aikido matches and listening to taiko performances as it began to rain again and we found an abandoned umbrella to hide under. Inside the temple we saw a bonsai exhibit and more things for sale and I put myself on their e-mail list.
This year when I was checking my e-mail I took a closer look at what the Midwest Buddhist Temple had sent me, sometimes it was just photos of the temple or what the schedule was or sometimes I wouldn’t check my e-mail in time to catch events but I saw a little picture of rabbits and Mochi-Tsuki, an event for making mochi with enough time to still try and go. It was their 48th annual mochi making event so I went with a friend and a resident, and after being confused on how to get in we made our way inside to where a woman met us and explained the ceremony and where the best places were to watch. My friend is a film major and spent his time taking pictures and filming the ceremony, going into the back where they made the bean paste and my resident tried hammering the rice into dough.
I had a cup of tea and watched and then ended up on the helping list and went in search of a way to help out, after asking around and finding no where to go I ended up at a long table filled with women who were shaping the mochi and putting the an (bean paste) in. They were super friendly and helpful, one woman explained how to make the mochi, and I listened to stories and got to meet tons of people. The rice dough would be pulled apart while still hot and passed around, quickly shaped with the an inside or plain and then pans would be filled for the final step. They were then put together in groups and sold or used for the temple. They occasionally brought over the different kinds of an they were making in the kitchen for us to try, I got to try a spinach tasting an and a peanut butter tasting an. It was a ton of fun. When friend was done with their work they found me and I cleaned all the flour off my hands and dusted it from my clothes. Before we left we went to buy some only to find that by volunteering we got a ton of mochi to take home with us. It was raining again like it had when I had gone to the Ginza festival the year prior. The temple always has a peaceful air to it and the people there are friendly and helpful and I love walking there from the train or bus, through the sleepy neighborhood and through the beautiful courtyards.