Marines experience mochi-making ceremony in Uruma City
Uruma City invited Marines to celebrate the new year and participate in a traditional mochi-making ceremony, also known as rice pounding, on Jan. 8 in Shioya sub-village, Uruma City, Okinawa, Japan.
During the rice pounding, residents and Marines used large wooden mallets, roughly the size of a sledge hammer, to pound steamed rice in a stone mortar to rhythmic chanting of other participants of the event.
Once the sticky rice was pounded into a paste-like form, participants put it on a tray coated in flour. Together, they hand-rolled the freshly-pounded mochi into small cakes, which were then rolled in brown sugar and glazed with sweet sauce if desired.
According to Chojuu Oshiro, the Shioya community leader, relations between Marines and Okinawa residents in Uruma City are strong, and inviting Marines to their events has become a customary curtesy. Similarly, Marines have invited Uruma residents to base events such as concerts, festivals and the Marine Corps Ball. Service members and their spouses have also offered free English classes and tutoring over the past six years.
Marines have a high level of respect for Japanese and Okinawan culture, and the respect goes both ways according to Col. Malkasian the camp commander of Camp Courtney, and commanding officer of Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Okinawa residents see Marines respecting and enjoying their traditions, while the Marines see Okinawa residents enjoying and respecting theirs. It is cultural exchanges such as these that continue to foster and develop good relations and a strong alliance.
“Making mochi is a unique experience, and for them to invite us to be a part of that is just fantastic,” said Malkasian, a Boston, Massachusetts, native. “It continues to build bonds between us and the Okinawa residents. We have a very strong relationship here between Camp Courtney and Uruma City and this specific (community). It gets better and better every time. The relationship remains strong. You see it here with the young kids and all the elders, and everything they do; how they welcome us here and teach us their traditions. I think they enjoy it as much as we do.”