Japanese Moon Festival: What is on the Surface?
The Japanese Moon Festival is known as “Tsukimi” （月見）or “Otsukimi”（お月見） in Japanese. The word “Tsukimi” is from two words, “tsuki” (月), which means moon, and the word “mi” (見), which means to view or to look. So, “Tsukimi” literally means moon viewing. This festival was traditionally held on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional lunar calendar, and is often celebrated on September 15th. So, let’s get to know more about this festival then!
Japanese people call the moon on September 15th as “Chushu no Meigetsu”（中秋の名月. The word “Chushu”（中秋）means “Mid Autumn” in Japanese. So, it literally means the “mid-autumn moon”, or “harvest moon”.
In the Edo Period (1603-1868), warriors and townspeople started enjoying the beautiful rays of the moon. Not only that, but farmers also enjoyed their time for viewing the full autumn moon while they were toiling in their fields; it was a symbol for a good harvest. From that ritual, they made it as one of the autumn festivals in Japan.
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What do they usually do during this festival? They usually eat rice dumplings, which are called as tsukimi dango since they symbolize celebrating the beauty of the moon.
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They also symbolize that we are sharing a meal with the lunar god too. The dumplings are usually served beside decorations made from susuki or known as Japanese pampas grass (silver grass). There is a belief that silver grass acts as a charm against evil in Japan. They usually eat the dumplings while enjoying the beauty and scenery of the moon or talking with family members.
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There are some events that are held in the major cities of Japan during this festival, such as sumo and tugs-of-war for children.
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Do you know about the Japanese folktale that there is a rabbit on the moon? The ancient belief was that there is a rabbit that lives on the moon. Such an interesting belief, I thought! Why do they believe it? It is because of the shape of the lunar craters. It looks like a rabbit pounding rice with a mortar and pestle which is the same way Japanese people make mochi rice.
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From my own experience, it was really nice to see the beautiful moon at night. Enjoying the scenery while eating dumplings and talking with others is really a wonderful experience. I don’t know why, but I got the feeling of “I am in Japan now!". It was so relaxing too. I think you will know what I mean after you have this experience for yourself.