This morning I was excorted by my friend Watanabe-san to a mochi o tsuku party (I thought it was "mochi o tsuki" but my dictionary says tsuku). At any rate, I went to go and help make mochi! This is one of the specialties in the area, I think because the rice grown here is very good (but I hear that about places all over Japan). It was really interesting. Mochi is translated as "glutinous rice cakes" which make them sound extremely unappetizing. I wish people would stop translating food items. For example; nobody pours me sake, they pour me Japanese rice wine. O-sake wa sake! (The "o" is usually put in front for politeness I think). It gets really bad when you move into more interesting food items. Sushi sounds tasty, raw fish not so much. I don't mind, I like both ;)
So, I helped to pound some steamed rice into a glutinous paste -- which was a lot harder than the old guys doing it made it look. The paste was then rolled out, and formed into dumplings. These were topped with either sweetened soybean flour, shouyu (soy sauce), or natto (fermented soy beans). It was really neat to get involved in a small community gathering where people were getting together to make something. And, there was plenty of food. I was less excited about the beer that was thrust into my hand when I got there about 11am. Drinking is really an important social activity in Japan. I ended up hanging out with the old men at the party, and some of them were falling down drunk by the end of the afternoon. But they were really entertaining to talk to. All of them said I should stay here for many years. One of them even offered me his son to marry. Never admit that you don't have a boyfriend to an old Japanese guy. He will either offer you unmarried children, or to be your boyfriend himself. But I did learn some new Japanese hand gestures too. I think that a thumbs up indicates a boyfriend and a pinky up shows a girlfriend. I'll have to check with some of my younger Japanese friends to make sure.
I'm really glad I have a contact here like Watanabe-san, who makes sure I am invited to events around town (and brings me vegetables from his garden). It's really hard to find out what is going on in town because I don't speak the language. But there are a lot of people here who want me to stay a long time, and go out of their way to make sure I'm doing well.