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Pounding Mochi with the Fastest Mochi Maker in Japan

Watching food be prepared can be just as great as making it or eating it. To that end, may we present Mitsuo Nakatani and his culinary violence.

Let’s break it down. Nakatani makes mochi, a traditional Japanese dessert often eaten at New Year’s celebrations and other holidays. Mochi is made from a sticky, sweet rice called mochigome, which is then pounded into a paste so it can be molded and folded into a delicious handheld teat. It’s that pounding, though, that makes mochi different from our simple, Betty Crocker pour-and-bake birthday cakes or Christmas cookies. Nakatani absolutely whoops that mochigome paste into shape.

In the traditional method as he practices it, you gotta be fast, you gotta be precise and you gotta hit hard to get that chewy texture right. Oh, and you also gotta shout. The shouting is essential. It’s what creates a rhythm for the teamwork as one person slaps and shapes the mochi between the hits of other person’s mallet that break down the mochigome into a singular paste.

As Nakatani sees it, he’s no great master—despite the fact that he averages three hits a second—he’s just had a lot of practice doing what he loves. In his mind, anyone can become a mochi-maker, it just takes dedication and heart. The heart is like the shouting: essential. Making mochi is like a battle, Nakatani says, but it’s a battle for the good of everyone who’s ever had a bite of mochi made right and smiled. Just as we love watching food, Nakatani loves watching people eat it.

Location

Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

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