Yes, it's the time of the year of mochi-tsuki (rice pounding). A special rice, mochi-gome (sweet rice) is steamed and pounded to be made into the traditional rice cakes. These rice cakes are essential to the New Year tradition. During this season, you may encounter mochi-tsuki at any neighborhood or school, or community centers.
Rice cakes will be used to make Kagami-mochi a set of round shaped rice cakes resembling a Kagami (Mirror) - a symbol of a sacred treasure for god with an orange on top. This is an offering to the god on New Years Day. On January 11th, we will take down the Kagami-mochi and eat it. This is called "Kagami-biraki" (Opening of the Mirror).
So on Sunday, we had our own Mochi Tsuki in our neighborhood and my two sons along with the other children helped with the mochi pounding.
I'm Miyuki and I teach Japanese Home cooking at my home in Tokyo.