Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Minoru Tajii Interview
Narrator: Minoru Tajii
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Gardena, California
Date: February 14, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-tminoru_2-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Let me ask you about the holidays. How did your family celebrate oshogatsu?

MT: Oh, we used to... couple of days before we always had the mochitsuki, and we used to be the one that pounds it. The young kids used to pound. We used to love it because it was fun for us. And then we'd get carried away and go faster and faster and then pretty soon you hit the side of the pans. The pans only last one year, and you just smash it all up. But still, we used to enjoy doing it. Then the girls and the mothers, they make the manju or mochi, shape it.

MN: Now, tell me a little bit more about the usu. You said the pan, what do you do with this pan?

MT: Throw it away after...

MN: No, where do you get the pan from?

MT: Oh, you can buy it. They used to come from Los Angeles, 'cause like I say, everything comes from Los Angeles. All the Japanese families make mochi, so he used to bring it down there and they'd buy it, beat it up, and then throw it away. You have to throw it away.

MN: So that was your usu.

MT: Huh?

MN: Your usu, that's where you pounded the mochi. You didn't have a traditional rock?

MT: No, no. The only thing you had was a tree stump down there. And you just put the pan and hold it down with wires, wired down, and then you start pounding away. Pretty soon you're hitting the side, so the pans won't last long. 'Cause it's not into a shape, it's just flat. So the pan gets beat up easy with young people.

MN: How did you eat your fresh mochi?

MT: Mochi? Oh, I used to just, when it's soft, oh, I used to love that, 'cause it's very soft. Just go up there and eat it. You could use shoyu and sugar, but I didn't care. I'd just eat the mochi. I used to love that. And manju, one thing you had is an inside, the red beans, that's it. But even then... well, they used to use, some of 'em where they use kinako, 'cause kinako lasts a long time. But I just liked it plain. And even now, to this day, I can eat it plain.

MN: But you know, mochi gets moldy really fast. So did you eat it...

MT: Well, as it starts molding you put it into water to stop it from molding. Now the mochi gets very soft, the water goes in. And then when you get it out of the water and you take all the mildew off and then eat it. But you don't waste it; food is scarce.

MN: What kind of, like, New Year's gochiso did your mother make?

MT: She used to get the cooked daikon, carrots. Gobo used to come from Los Angeles, so once in a while we'd get that. But especially for New Year's, we always have that. But you don't use too much of that for everyday. Although we tried growing gobo, but it didn't grow. The one coming from Los Angeles, they were, I would say about... gee, sixteen, eighteen inches long. We tried to grow it in Imperial Valley, the ground is too hard. They only get to be about six, eight inches, and then they go outside and they get hard. So it's not that good. But it's better than nothing.

MN: And then did your family rest for the traditional three days?

MT: Oh, yes. They took off three days. About the only time they really rested, except when we came to Los Angeles or San Diego, then you can't do anything, that's all.

MN: Now I know your parents weren't Christian, but did you observe Christmas?

MT: Yeah... well, just school, no school. For Christmas and New Year's, the whole week was always off. That's when we can really go out to our friends' house. Parents were not working too much anyway, so we just take off in the morning, go out and play all day, then come home hungry.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.