otsukimi moon viewing festival

It’s autumn in Japan! Otsukimi season! …but what is otsukimi?

The word “otsukimi” literally means, “to watch the moon”. Otsukimi is held around the day of a full moon from the middle of the September to the beginning of October. At this time of the year in Japan, it is said that the clear air makes the moon look at its most beautiful. At the same time, autumn is a harvest season so it is also a harvest festival too. Otsukimi is an event to appreciate the moon and to celebrate the harvest for the year.

So what do you do in otsukimi?

In order to celebrate the harvest, many foods are made from the seasonally and culturally important crops. They are displayed and eaten while watching the moon. Tsukimi dango is probably the most common and widely known food to eat at otsukimi. Tsukimi dango is a rice cake, which comes from the appreciation of the rice harvest. Also, resembles the moon because they are round and white. Autumn season foods, such as potatoes, chestnuts and grapes are also eaten. Another item often displayed is a plant called susuki (pampas grass). Although otsukimi is an event to appreciate harvest, rice plant itself could not be used because otsukimi is too early for the rice plant to bear fruits. Therefore, susuki is displayed instead of rice plant because they look similar. This year, otsukimi is on the 24th of September. How about looking up at the moon and appreciate it on that day?

By the way, have you ever seen a picture of the rabbit making rice cake on the moon? The image of the moon and a rabbit is common in Japan because Japanese people believe that the shaded area in the moon looks like a rabbit pounding to make a rice cake. People from different cultural backgrounds see different shapes in the moon. Here is a list of some examples from different areas.    

  • Australia; a smiling man
  • North Europe; a grandmother reading a book
  • Arabia; a howling lion

Next time you watch a full moon, try finding out how people in the world see the shape on the moon differently!

By Rumi



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