Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistic Center (FLC) Yokosuka and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Ship Supply Depot (SSD) members came together this past December to honor the partnership forged by the two naval logistics commands in a celebration of culture and friendship during a traditional rice-pounding or mochitsuki ceremony at the JMSDF naval base in nearby Taura, Japan.
The festival provided U.S. Navy guests an opportunity to participate in an important Japanese cultural event that heralds the coming of the New Year.
The "Mochi-pounding" ceremony is usually an all-day community event in which mochi - a glutinous rice mixture - is kneaded and pounded until it becomes smooth and shiny and takes on a consistency somewhat like soft taffy.
The event is usually held in neighborhood parks, town squares or other social gathering locations throughout Japan, sometime around Christmas or New Year's Day.
The day of the festival, the steamed rice is placed into a rice mortar (usu) where - during the festival - one participant alternately pounds the mochi with a special mallet while another leans in to knead the mochi with the hands. The sequence demands precision as the kneading is done swiftly between mallet strikes on the wetted bed of rice.
Participants don light robes (happi) and head bands and - upon striking the bed of rice – cry, "yoissho!" meaning "hurray!"
Capt. Marty Fields, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka commanding officer, thanked his counterpart, SSD Commanding Officer Capt. Kiyoshi Matsura for the invitation.
"We are so proud to join you in this time-honored ceremony," Capt. Fields said. "I always look forward to our professional liaisons with you our JMSDF counterparts, but most of all - it is our participation in your traditional and social events, which truly gives us the opportunity to learn the Japanese culture."
“These events go a long way toward helping us maintain our friendly partnerships and as a host SSD always exceeds expectations,” he added.
Capt. Matsura thanked his American guests for coming to celebrate what was also the 15th anniversary of SSD.
"SSD was newly created 15 years ago in Dec. 1998, and today we are responsible for provisioning 50 billion yen worth of ship supplies to the Japanese fleet every year," Capt. Matsura explained.
He added that they are grateful for the special relationship that SSD shares with NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka and its many U.S. Supply Corps members.
The event brought together Sailors from two nations with one very similar mission, to support their fleets, so whether you are a logistician from Japan or the U.S. the ability to provide the mission essential support remains the same.
By Sky M. Laron, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Director of Corporate Communications