JNHS at Mochi Festival

Maiya Ezawa, Community Editor

On Jan. 13, MHS’ Japanese National Honor Society (JNHS) volunteered at the Mililani Honbushin’s annual Mochitsuki Festival. This is the second year the club has participated at the event, which features traditional mochi pounding for families, stations for the children and various food stands. The festival is the club’s biggest service project of the year.
“The Mochitsuki Festival consisted of mochi pounding, making and serving traditional Japanese foods and Japanese children’s games. We helped out at all of those stations, and from the expressions of all of the older Japanese women and men, they were really grateful. We helped supervise children, make mochi and even serve guests,” said JNHS President Senior Tracie Okumura.
The members of the club were split into different jobs, some of which were predetermined at a meeting the day before. “When we got there, one of the festival coordinators asked for volunteers to help at the concession stands, and we split up into the different stations. The boys had to do the mochi pounding though,” said Okumura.
In addition to the JNHS volunteers, some students from MHS attended the festival for their own purposes. “The main reason (I went) was to buy an omamori. With Japanese culture, these can serve great purpose for things like self protection or good health,” said Senior Kasey Rivera. “The JNHS volunteers were helpful and undoubtedly hardworking. Seeing them work so efficiently with the temple employees showed they enjoyed volunteering.”
While the members of JNHS had a lot to learn, they eventually were able to help the festival run more efficiently. “They were really kind and seemed so grateful to have us there. At first, they worked really hard to teach us the right way, but towards the end, they were really relieved and happy, even leaving us to man the stations ourselves. We were even invited back for a daikon festival and the next Mochitsuki,” said Okumura.
Those who visited the festival were able to participate in traditional Japanese events, an opportunity they may not get elsewhere. “The highlight of the festival is our Family Mochi Experience. We teach the families the whole process of pounding mochi while educating on the significance of the tradition. We have not really met a family who knew how to pound mochi, in there we let them pound mochi on their own. They always appreciate our staff helping them,” said Head Minister Akio Akiyama. Rivera added, “It was harmonious. Many families came to wait in line for mochi pounding and everyone had smiles. Seeing people having fun while pounding is probably the most vivid thing I remember because it’s such a touching moment to experience a culture with loved ones.”
Volunteering at the Mochitsuki Festival helps to unite and strengthen the club’s purpose. “My goals for this year are basically to give back to the Japanese community as much as possible, as well as learning more about the general Japanese culture. Mochitsuki is an event that fulfills both of those goals in a fun and delicious way,” said Okumura. Akiyama added, “I really appreciate students who understand the importance of volunteering for the community. I hope that they understand that from their support, they create many smiles around them.”
JNHS hopes to continue to volunteer at the Mochitsuki Festival, making it their main service project. They also hope to expand their reach to other events, such as the Honolulu Festival.