Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Chief Petty Officer Association (CPOA) members joined their counterparts from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) during the 33rd annual Mochi Pounding Festival held at the JMSDF Yokosuka base, Dec. 14.
The day’s event began with U.S. and JMSDF chief petty officers (CPOs) partaking in the 400-year-old Japanese tradition of breaking open a “Kagamiwari,” or sake barrel, with mallets, which was followed by a toast. There was also a banquet of Japanese and American cuisine, prepared by the resident service members.
“There are only a few events each year where we all get together and this one was an awesome opportunity to interact with our host nation’s chief petty officers,” said Quartermaster Chief Petty Officer Derek Goehmann, CFAY Port Operations leading chief petty officer and CPOA coordinator for the event. “We started out with some opening ceremonies that included gift exchanges and toasts and with that, creating lasting friendships.”
Mochi is a Japanese food, locally believed to bring good luck, made by pounding and kneading cooked rice into a gummy paste, using large mallets as the hammering tools. The paste is then used in a variety of recipes, from candies to soups, and even desserts. Mochi pounding festivals, or “mochitsuki,” are traditionally held to rejoice the Japanese New Year.
People of all ages, from small children to adults, indulged in the chance to swing a massive mallet over the doughy substance, sitting within what is known as a “usu,” or rice mortar. Kneading is then done after each hit of the mallet to ensure proper consistency of the food.
Joining the celebration, CFAY’s Command Master Chief Derek Mullenhour offered some words of recognition regarding the joyous occasion.
“This is one of the most important bilateral events for ours and their CPOs,” he said. “For 33 years now we have been getting together with our families and friends from both forces to celebrate the closing of the year and welcoming the new one. The sharing of great food and meeting the families is the best thing about this event … it is what makes us a strong alliance.”
This year, in attendance was also the 7th Fleet band playing traditional Christmas tunes for guests to dance and sing along to, along with Japanese martial artists performing a demonstration for the families attending.
Master Chief Mullenhour also expressed why it is important to continue participating in events like these.
“Strengthening our friendship by coming together year after year for this event is one of the many reasons why being stationed in Japan is so special,” he added.
CFAY provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands, 27,000 military and civilian personnel and their families.