Mitsuwa’s Oshogatsu Festival

Well over two hundred people gathered in the early morning on the first day of 2017 to celebrate the New Year, Japanese style, at Mitsuwa Marketplace – aka Tokyo on the Hudson – in Edgewater, NJ, for what has become an annual ritual for many from the NY metro area – many Japanese, but many Anime and cosplay fans as well.

While most of North Jersey sleeps off the previous night’s revelry, Mitsuwa is known as the place to find action – and rice cakes – on January 1.

One disappointment for early arrivals: New Jersey has very strict blue laws which ban the sale of alcoholic beverages until 1:00 p.m. on Sundays, which happened to be January 1 this year.

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Plenty of sake, but on Sunday morning in Bergen County, NJ, the aisle is closed

But that was just more time to enjoy the mochi making, Dragon Dance, and taiko drums which ushered in a very fine and sunny New Year’s Day – and welcomed the year of the Rooster.

Mochitsuki is the traditional ceremony of pounding glutinous rice into paste and molding it into shape. The rice is put into the usu, or granite mortar, and pounded with a kine, or wooden mallet.

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Preparing for mochitsuki

There was also prepared mochi for sale at Mitsuwa, in plain packaging as well as in cute Frosty the Snowman motifs and the traditional kagamimochi (mirror ricecake) display with prayers for a healthy and happy 2017.

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Prior to the mochitsuki, there was a performance by someone imitating Pikotaro, the character created by Japanese comedian Daimaou Kosaka, whose wildly popular, nonsensical song “PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen)” went viral on YouTube last year. His flamboyant gold clothing influenced the selection of kin, which means “gold,” as the Kanji of the Year in 2016. Although the performance was somewhat strange, it seemed to please everyone in the crowd, Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

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The Year of the Rooster is now underway, thanks in part to the traditional oshogatsu festival at Mitsuwa.