This is about as much fun as Slow Food gets. It’s called rice pounding, which is what you do to convert ordinary sticky rice into rice cakes. It’s possible to use a machine to make the rice cakes (or mochi, as they are known in Japan), but what the Japanese much prefer to do is to get together in the open air and pound the rice in stone mortars with wooden mallets. They even let me have a go – I’m the sinister figure in black. Once you have pounded the rice into a thick paste it’s whisked away to trestle tables where groups of women shape it into cakes. The mochi are traditionally flavoured with beans or Japanese radish. Today we’re given a special treat of a sweet soup with some of the rice balls in the bottom – just what you need after a heavy morning’s pounding.