Traditional New Year rice cake pounding at Okinawa Zoo

Children are enthusiastic about making their own rice cakes as it’s something they don’t do every day.

Okinawa’s steeped in customs and traditions during the holidays, but one of the more fun traditions that allows everyone to get involved is the rice cake pounding at the Okinawa Zoo and Museum.

The January 2nd event has three sessions at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.  Participating in the rice cake pounding is free, but there is an admission charge to enter the Okinawa Zoo and Museum.  All visitors and their children can experience full-scale pounding steamed rice cakes using a pestle and mortar at the Okinawa Zoo and Museum.

During the New Year’s holidays, making rice cakes is a traditional Japanese custom.  People eat the rice cakes and pray to God for their safety in the coming year.  Rice cakes are treated as an offering to give to God.  They are prepared for welcoming the New Year’s deity. Other New Year decorations include pine branches, coconut

Freshly made rice cakes are usually wrapped in getto (shell flower) leaves.

decorations and ‘mirror’ rice cakes.

The New Year’s deity is a god who makes the promise that all families are fine, and can live in peace for the coming year, and then gives guarantees that the year’s crops will be rich.

Admission to the Okinawa Zoo & Museum, Okinawa Kodomo no Kuni, is ¥500 for adults, ¥200 for teenagers 13~18, and ¥100 for children ages 4~13.  Kids 3 and under are free.