Celebrate the Autumn Moon with Tsukimi!

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Celebrate the Autumn Moon with Tsukimi!


Like most Japanese holidays, Tsukimi (moon-viewing) which falls on the same day as the Autumn Equinox this year, is a celebration of the changing seasons and a time to appreciate all the crop yields the kami has gifted us in the summer. It’s believed that the tradition was brought over from China during the Heian period (794-1185 AD) and adopted into Japanese culture by court nobles who threw lavish banquets with musical performances and poem readings dedicated to the moon. Similar to many other Japanese customs, Tsukimi became widespread and popular amongst the general Japanese population during the Edo period (1603-1868). Traditionally known as Jugoya, the Tsukimi autumn festival used to be celebrated on the 15th of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.

Today, Tsukimi is celebrated in quiet tranquility, looking out at the full moon with foods like tsukimi dango, chestnuts, and persimmons. In stores, you will also spot rabbit shaped mochi and cakes in the spirit of the moon festival.

Why a rabbit? You might wonder.


While those in the West tend to refer to the “man in the moon” and report of seeing a smiling man’s face on the surface of this glowing orb, the Japanese see a rabbit with a kinu in hand, pounding rice into mochi.

According to legend, long ago, there was an old man in the moon who watched over all of the animals and people on Earth. Wanting to know which creature was the kindest and most generous, the old man appeared before a monkey, a fox, and a rabbit, leaning heavily on his walking stick and begging for food. Before long, the monkey returned with an armload of fruit and the fox, with a fresh fish between its teeth. However, unable to find anything to give, the rabbit asked the other creatures to gather firewood and build a big fire. When the fire was blazing, the rabbit turned to the old man and explained that he had nothing to offer but himself. As such, the rabbit prepared to jump into the fire to offer himself to the old man for supper. Before he could jump in, the old man revealed himself as the moon kami and took the rabbit with him back to the moon to live there forever.


Consequently, the rabbit is often associated with the moon in Japanese culture. Interestingly, so are specific foods that highlight a raw or over easy egg like tsukimi soba or udon and more recently, McDonald’s egg-topped hamburgers. In the days leading up to Tsukimi, popular chains like McDonald’s, Lawson, Ministop, and Lotteria put out specials featuring eggs to celebrate the occasion. Be sure to go out and try one of these limited-time-only treats!


You and your family can also enjoy Tsukimi by attending one of the many events going on all over Japan:

Tokyo Tower Moon Viewing Staircase Walk, 9/24 11am-10pm 
Take a moment to gaze at the autumn moon as it shines on the city of Tokyo.

Tokyo Sky Tree Jazz in the Moon Night, 9/21 (7-8pm), 9/28 (7-8pm) 
Be swept off your feet to jazz under the moonlight 350m in the air on Tokyo Skytree.

Yasaka Shrine Kangetsu-sai, 9/24 
Enjoy traditional music and performance under the moonlit sky from 6:45 pm at Yasaka Shrine.

Daikaku-ji Kangetsu no Yube, 9/22-24 
Enjoy the moon in the night sky and in the reflection on the calm surface of the Osawa-no-ike Pond by taking a ride on traditional boats. You can buy tickets on the day in front of the temple for ¥1000 and choose between 5,6,7, and 8 pm time slots.


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