Dear friends, was there a time when you felt you just have to get that pic? It happened to me many times and the latest was at Nara city, photographing Japan’s fastest mochi pounders Nakatanidou.
Nakatanidou won the national high-speed mochitsuki (the pounding of rice to make mochi) championship in 2005 and 2006 and since then they have become a household name synonymous with exciting mochitsuki performances. The mochitsuki does not have fixed schedule as the shop owner only starts pounding when their freshly-made mochi are running out, which can be every 30-45 minute intervals and last about 1.5-2 minutes each time.
Having arrived after visiting the nearby Nara Park, I saw they had just completed a pounding session, so we went to look for lunch a short distance away, which incidentally has a long queue (like 30+min). My wife suggested that I watch out for the mochitsuki while she manned the queue. But alas, l discovered I have missed yet another session. So after lunch, I rushed to the shop front and waited for the next session which came 45min later.
When it resumed, I had the no.1 spot just steps from the famous mochi master- Mitsuo Nakatani. It was a most exciting photo session indeed, as the swinging mallets and splatter were just whiskers away from me.
The shutter speed was deliberately kept low at 1/50s to convey the speed and urgency of the pounding (up to 3 poundings in 1 second). The usage of flashlight with 2nd curtain sync would be perfect to capture “still with motion” pics but is not allowed here as it would distract the mochi masters. A fast shutter speed to freeze the action would have totally ruined the feel of the occasion. The pictures are shot with Canon EOS 5DMkIV, lenses EF16-35mm F4L IS – 1/50, F4, ISO 400
Do have a look at their video at Great Big Story – https://youtu.be/tmSrULDVRPc
If you are in Nara, do try their Yomogi Mochi. These are green rice cakes (150¥ each) made with Japanese mugwort, filled with anko – a sweet red paste made from azuki beans and dusted with kinako (roasted and sweetened soybean flour).
Located to the west of Nara Park, Nakatanidou is a 5-minute walk south of Kintetsu Nara Station and opens daily from 10am to 7pm.
Many sincere thanks for coming along my pixels journey. Should any readers be keen to go on a visit to Japan, please feel free to drop me a message or check out my other Japan adventures HERE!
Footnote: All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and all rights reserved. The opinion expressed is non-sponsored, factual, objective and that of the author. .