Japanese festivals: otsukimi
日本人から 月は お 餅を 作っている ウサギが いるように 見えると 話を 聞くことがあります。
餅を 作る 過程は、もちつき（餅つき）と 呼ばれ、たまたま「満月(full moon)」＝望月 と 同じ 読み方です。
秋は、月が きれいに 見えます。
少し 目を 細めると、月に ウサギが 見えるかも しれません！
You might have heard of hanami, the famous Japanese practice of watching the cherry blossoms in the spring. There is another, not as famous tradition that involves watching something, and that is otsukimi.
Otsukimi, or just tsukimi, literally translates to “moon-viewing”, and it is a tradition in honor of the autumn moon. The first full moon and subsequent waxing moon of autumn are watched and celebrated according to the traditional Japanese calendar, usually September or October in the Gregorian calendar. This year it is from September the 13th to the 16th.
This tradition dates back to the Heian period – from the 9th to the 12th century AD. As in many old cultures, the moon and the sun played a hugely important role in Japan in ancient times, and affected everyday life, the harvest, the calendar, and so on. They also had associated gods, the sun god Amaterasu and the moon goddess Tsukuyomi no Mikoto. During otsukimi, people belonging to higher classes used to sail away from the shore, look at the full moon’s reflection on the sea and recite poetry.
Nowadays, Japanese people look at the moon and eat tsukimi dango, or moon-viewing dumplings, made of mochi, or Japanese rice cake. This is because, in Japan, people claim to see a rabbit making mochi on the moon. The process of making mochi is called mochitsuki (餅つき) coincidentally also a homonym of the word for “full moon” (望月). If you squint a little you might see the rabbit too! But it’s best you google it to have an idea, as it might be hard to see for those who are not used to Japanese folklore.
There are some other foods associated with tsukimi, such as “mooncakes” or tsukimi noodles, and some foods are displayed for and offered to the full moon, like sweet potatoes or beans.
However you decide to celebrate otsukimi, it’s nice to have a reminder of our historical connection to moon, so this autumn don’t forget to make some time to leave the hustle and bustle, find a nice quiet spot, and appreciate the beautiful autumn full moon.
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I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
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