Friday, December 23, 2011

O-Jizo san, the grateful statues.....a tale from Japan

Mini Jizo statues picture courtesy of Wikipedia
O-Jizo san, The Grateful Statues
ONCE upon a time an old man and an old woman were living in a country village in Japan. They were very poor and spent every day weaving big hats out of straw. Whenever they finished a number of hats, the old man would take them to the nearest town to sell them.
One day the old man said to the old woman: "New Year's is the day after tomorrow. How I wish we had some rice-cakes to eat on New Year's Day! Even one or two little cakes would be enough. Without some rice-cakes we can't even celebrate New Year's."
"Well, then," said the old woman, "After you've sold these hats, why don't you buy some rice-cakes and bring them back with you?"
So early the next morning the old man took the five new hats that they had made, and went to town to sell them. But after he got to town he was unable to sell a single hat. And to make things still worse, it began to snow very hard.
The old man was very sad as he began trudging wearily back toward his village. He was going along a lonesome mountain trail when he suddenly came upon a row of six stone statues of Jizo, the protector of children, all covered with snow.
"My, my! Now isn't this a pity," the old man said. "These are only stone statues of Jizo, but even so just think how cold they must be standing here in the snow."
"I know what I'll do!" the old man suddenly said to himself. "This will be just the thing."

So he unfastened the five new hats from his back and began tying them, one by one, on the heads of the Jizo statues.
When he came to the last statue he suddenly realized that all the hats were gone. "Oh, my!" he said, "I don't have enough hats." But then he remembered his own hat. So he took it off his head and tied it on the head of the last Jizo. Then he went on his way home.
When he reached his house the old woman was waiting for him by the fire. She took one look at him and cried: "You must be frozen half to death. Quick! Come to the fire. What did you do with your hat?"
The old man shook the snow out of his hair and came to the fire. He told the old woman how he had given all the new hats, and even his own hat, to the six stone Jizo. He told her he was sorry that he hadn't been able to bring any rice-cakes.
"My! That was a very kind thing you did for the Jizo," said the old woman. She was very proud of the old man, and went on: "It's better to do a kind thing like that than to have all the rice-cakes in the world. We'll get along without any rice-cakes for New Year's."
By this time it was late at night, so the old man and woman went to bed. And just before dawn, while they were still asleep, a very wonderful thing happened. Suddenly there was the sound of voices in the distance, singing:
"A kind old man walking in the snow

Gave all his hats to the stone Jizo.

So we bring him gifts with a yo-heave-ho!"
The voices came nearer and nearer, and then you could hear the sound of footsteps on the snow.
The sounds came right up to the house where the old man and woman were sleeping. And then all at once there was a great noise, as though something had been put down just in front of the house.
The old couple jumped out of bed and ran to the front door. When they opened it, what do you suppose they found? Well, right there at the door someone had spread a straw mat, and arranged very neatly on the mat was one of the biggest and most beautiful and freshest rice-cakes the old people had ever seen.
"Whoever could have brought us such a wonderful gift?" they said, and looked about wonderingly.
They saw some tracks in the snow leading away from their house. The snow was all tinted with the colors of dawn, and there in the distance, walking over the snow, were the .six stone Jizo, still wearing the hats which the old man had given them.
The old man said: "It was the stone Jizo who brought this wonderful rice-cake to us."
The old woman said: "You did them a kind favor when you gave them your hats, so they brought this rice-cake to show their gratitude.
The old couple had a very wonderful New Year's Day celebration after all, because now they had this wonderful rice-cake to eat.

My friends at Wiki have the following information about Japanese Rice Cakes aka Mochi:
Mochi (Japanese: 餅) is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice (not to be confused with gluten) pounded into paste and molded into shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki.[1] While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time. Mochi is also a prominent snack in Hawaii, South Korea, Taiwan (where it is called 麻糬, Hokkien môa-chî or Mandarin máshu), Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

(picture found at

Mochi can be made in many flavors and colors! Kids will love this!
The following Mochi recipe is simple and can be made in a steamer or in the microwave. The video below the recipe demonstrates both methods of making mochi.

Mochi Recipe ( Japanese Rice Cake Recipe )
Mochi dough recipe :
Ingredients :
2 cups water
2 cups glutinous rice flour ( mochiko )
1 cup sugar
potato starch, or soy bean flour for dusting ( katakuriko, or kinako )
1 tbsp strawberry jam ( optional )
1/4 tsp pandan ( screwpine leaf ) extract ( optional )

Method :
1) Sieve glutinous rice flour in a big bowl ( to prevent clumps) and set aside.
2) Mix sifted glutinous rice flour, sugar and 2 cups water in a bowl. ( optional: add strawberry jam for pink mochi dough or pandan extract for green mochi dough)
3) Making mochi
Steaming method : pour flour mixture into an oiled pan. Place in steamer and steam on medium for 30-45 minutes.
Microwave method : pour flour mixture into an oiled microwavable pan. Microwave 10-15 minutes covered.
4) Dust some potato starch ( Katakuriko ) over a large flat-surfaced board. Knead dough until a smooth texture is achieved.
5) Shape dough into mini-logs and cut into bite-sized portions.
6) Fill or top dough with your favorite stuffing or topping.
recipe found at Melting Wok