Washoku Blog

Otsukimi Festival

By Sherina, Posted on 04/10/2017


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Today is Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi (お月見),  also known as Jugoya (十五夜), is a festival honoring the autumn moon dating back to the Heian era(平安時代). This cultural festival spreaded from the Chinese culture as a variant of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Chinese/Japanese calendar; the waxing moon is celebrated on the 13th day of the ninth month. This normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar that we follow.

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Tsukimi traditions include displaying decorations made from Japanese pampas grass (susuki) and eating rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. Seasonal produce are also displayed as offerings to the moon. Sweet potatoes are offered to the full moon, while beans or chestnuts are offered to the waxing moon the following month. The alternate names of the celebrations, Imomeigetsu (literally “potato harvest moon”) and Mamemeigetsu (“bean harvest moon”) or Kurimeigetsu (“chestnut harvest moon”) are derived from these offerings.

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There are varying versions of the folktale, the Moon and a Rabbit. Here a few popular ones:
“The Moon and a Rabbit”
Long, long ago there lived an old man and his wife in a village. Being honest and hard workers, they were always so poor and lived from hand to mouth. One day he went to a mountain as usual to get woods, when he found a rabbit caught in a trap. He freed her from it. A few days later, a lady in white Kimono visited their house.“Excuse me. I’m so sorry to disturb you. I lost my parents and my house because of the fire. I have no place to go. Please help me. Please let me stay here with you. I’ll do whatever I can do for you. please”. “I see. You can stay here in this house if you want to. But as you see, we are so poor that we don’t have much rice.” said the old man. As the old couple had no child, they took care of her as if she were their own daughter.She worked and worked, helping her father with the rice-field and getting woods, helping her mother with cooking, washing, sewing and so on. Having worked day after day, their life never changed for the better.One night under the full moon, she said to her parents, “My dear parents. I’m a rabbit helped by you in a mountain. To tell the truth, I came from the moon to meet my friends on the earth. It was careless of me to be caught in a trap. I wanted to help you in return for your kindness. But I can’t change your life. You are always hungry and poor. The last thing I can do for you is ….Please eat me.” On saying so, she changed into a white rabbit and jumped into a big pot, in which stew was being cooked, on the hearth. They tried to help her but it was too late. The steam out of the stew went up and up to the moon. To their surprise, they saw the rabbit smiling and making rice cake in the full moon. They never felt hungry.

” Old Man of the Moon”
Many years ago, the Old Man of the Moon decided to visit the Earth. He disguised himself as a beggar and asked Fox (Kitsune), Monkey (Saru), and Rabbit (Usagi) for some food. Monkey climbed a tree and brought him some fruit. Fox went to a stream, caught a fish, and brought it back to him. But Rabbit had nothing to offer him but some grass. So he asked the beggar to build a fire. After the beggar started the fire, Rabbit jumped into it and offered himself as a meal for the beggar to eat. Quickly the beggar changed back into the Old Man of the Moon and pulled Rabbit from the fire. He said “You are most kind, Rabbit, but don’t do anything to harm yourself. Since you were the kindest of all to me, I’ll take you back to the moon to live with me.” The Old Man carried Rabbit in his arms back to the moon and he is still there to this very day exactly where the Old Man left him. Just look at the moon in the night sky and the rabbit is there!”

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