Mochi Making in Nara
Some of our readers might have already caught up to it, some time ago a video featuring two of Nakatanidou staff members preparing one of Japan’s most delicious rice cake, mochi, at an incredible speed. The process is called mochi pounding, mochitsuki in Japanese, and this small store in Nara prides itself as being the fastest pounders in Japan and the store has become an attraction in its own right for many of the people visiting Nara throughout the year.
Mochitsuki is something that requires both staff members to be perfectly in sync in terms of speed and order of actions as one wields a massive hammer while the other continuously needs to add glutinous rice into a wooden mortar. To witness it is truly remarkable as they never miss mark and within the blur of the motion they are able to produce hundreds of freshly made mochi in a very short time span repeating the process once every half hour. Nakatanidou has all the right to take pride of their process as they have consecutively won the national mochitsuki championships, which surprisingly is a real event.
Mochi comes in many varieties and finds it way in several traditional Japanese dishes. Daifukumochi is the most common as it is essentially a mochi with filling, being usually red bean paste, inside it. Wagashi is another example where mochi is used for the sheets while oshiruko, a red bean soup popular during the winter, has small pieces of mochi added to it. The eating of kagami mochi consisting of two round mochi stacked upon each other has also become a tradition amongst many families during New Year. During the summer there is mochi ice cream, known as “snow-viewing daifuku”, produced by Lotte.
The mochi Nakatanidou produces is known as yomogi mochi, which is very soft and chewy mochi dusted with roasted soybean flour and red bean paste inside. It is an extraordinarily delicious treat for only 130 yen a piece. Since Nakatanidou is located on the main street leading from the station towards Nara’s main attraction, such as Nara Park and Todaiji, it is a great place to witness their craftsmanship and enjoy some mochi on the way. For those who do not particularly like mochi, the store also offers rice crackers in a wide variety of flavors.
Access and opening hours
To get to Nakatanidou you will most likely first want to know how to get to Nara. From Kyoto Station there is a local train to Nara on the JR Nara Line as well as the Miyakoji Rapid and express trains which stops at JR Nara Station. From Nara Station it is quite straightforward as the store is located on the main street, which is straight on the left-hand side when exiting the station, leading towards the town’s major attractions. You will see Nakatanidou on your right-hand side just before reaching Kohfukuji next to the entrance to a covered shopping street and across from a convenience store. The store is open from 10:00 until 19:00, yet it is advisable to go around the afternoon to make sure the staff is actually doing mochitsuki at the time.