Fugetsu-Do owner Brian Kito took this photo of his family as they helped out for Mochi Madness, the annual year-end event that brings together family and volunteers to prepare mochi for New Year’s. Front row: Kito nieces, Kamryn Ikeda, Lauren Tanaka Fortune, Erin Tanaka. Middle counter: Jackie Louie, Kayleigh Nakamura, Walter Louie, Tiffany Rubin. Back: JV Tri.

Community and family volunteers came together for the Fugetsu-Do 2022 Mochi Madness.

Jerry Hashimoto and Ray Sugimoto pack komochi for Fugetsu-Do’s Mochi Madness.

The annual work rush covered four days, Dec. 28 to 31, starting at 8 p.m. going until 7 a.m. the next day. Sixty helpers staffed the six 4-hour shifts to pack fresh komochi to distribute to Japanese markets. Other traditional items included an mochi, kuri kinton, yokan, noshi mochi, okasane and other speciality items for New Year’s fare.

Cathy Uchida, Kinu Hashimoto and Judy Sugimoto pitch in during one of the overnight shifts.
Robert Horsting prepares boxes for delivery to outlets.

Volunteers come from organizations including Grateful Crane Ensemble, Little Tokyo Service Center, Little Tokyo Community Council, Little Tokyo Historical Society, Nisei Week, The Rafu Shimpo and Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program. Former staff members of Fugetsu-Do, the Koban, Upper Crust and alumni of the Japan Exchange and Teaching program, originally recruited by Nancy Kikuchi over 20 years ago, returned to volunteer.

The tradition of the community coming together originated from the early years of Fugetsu-Do and has continued over the 120 years since its founding in 1903. According to third-generation owner Brian Kito, the relationship with local customers has been the key to the store’s longevity.

“The community has been supporting us now more than ever, with the economy and COVID and everything,” Kito said. “They know it’s more than just a piece of mochi, and we really, really appreciate it.”

Komochi is a popular item for use in ozoni, a New Year’s soup, or to be heated up and eaten with shoyu and sugar or kinako.

Photos by MICHAEL OKAMURA (except where noted)

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