Ringing in the Year of the Monkey at Mochitsuki
Mochitsuki is the ceremony in which rice is pounded with large mallets, then molded into sticky rice cakes called “mochi.” It symbolizes starting the New Year with a full belly in hopes of abundance for the year ahead. Portland’s annual Mochitsuki event offers food, art, music and hands-on cultural experiences for all ages.
This year, event-goers enjoyed live performances reflecting traditional and contemporary Japanese culture such as: koto playing; taiko drumming; shakuhachi flute music; Japanese dance; storytelling; and spoken word poetry by G Yamazawa, a national poetry slam champion and two-time individual world poetry slam finalist.
Attendees also watched food demonstrations, sampled authentic Japanese cuisine, and participated in traditional activities such as origami, tea ceremony, New Year’s games, flower arranging, calligraphy, and of course, witnessed the dramatic pounding of mochi.
Playing around with rice might sound like a blast, but a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. That’s where Gard comes in. Our director of operations and finance, Valarie Grudier Edwards, serves on the committee for Mochitsuki, and Gard’s public relations team has promoted the event pro-bono for four consecutive years. This year, Mochitsuki celebrated its 20th anniversary, and we did our part by helping get the word out.
Here’s how we did it:
We reached out.
To promote Mochitsuki, we reached out to our trusted contacts in the local print, online and TV media. We arranged for KPTV reporter Joe Vithayathil to feature Mochitsuki and a few event headliners on his “On the Go with Joe” segment. We even convinced him to dress in traditional Japanese attire!
We rolled out of bed…at 3am.
The day of the interview got off to an early start. We were charged with coordinating setup, rallying the troops, and motivating the performers, Joe and the camera crew – pastries and coffee helped. During the live segments, we made sure everything ran smoothly. Joe immersed himself in Japanese culture and participated in traditional activities such as mochi-pounding and New Year’s osechi food preparation.
We were happy to secure TV, print and online coverage, and had a great time promoting Mochitsuki’s talented performers and exciting features – we even scored some free mochi! And we were thrilled to help bring the community together to celebrate this festive Japanese American tradition.