SEPTEMBER - Otsukimi
Otsukimi: The Japanese Moon Viewing Festival
In the US, we celebrate the arrival of autumn with Halloween-themed activities and apple picking. In Japan, they celebrate with moon viewing parties known as Otsukimi. These festivities occur between September and October annually. By observing the mid-autumn moon, you're offering appreciation for this year's bountiful harvest and hopefully bringing in an equally great crop next year.
Continue reading to learn all about this memorable Japanese holiday!
What Is Otsukimi?
Traditionally, Otsukimi fell on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. The full moon is most visible on this day of the month. During this celebration, there are picnics, celebrations spent with loved ones, and seasonal food made from the harvests of that year.
Supposedly, this holiday originated from the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which was brought to Japan about 1000 years ago. The holiday began with the aristocrats telling poetry and then later spread to a widely celebrated affair.
Otsukimi (also known as Tsukimi) is a widely celebrated holiday in east and southeast Asia.
When Does Otsukimi Occur?
The dates for Otsukimi are marked on the traditional Japanese calendar; then, they're translated to modern calendars. Initially, the festival occurred on the 15th of the eighth month in the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar. The best viewing days are in September and October each year.
The date changes annually, depending on when the full moon occurs. There is also a celebration that’s part of Tsukimi, which includes viewing the waxing moon. This celebration was traditionally held on the 13th day of the ninth month. The waxing moon viewing also occurs annually.
Additionally, Otsukimi occurs whether there’s rain or shine. If you spend time at the festival and can’t see the moon due to the weather, you may hear the locals referring to the moon as a “rain moon.”
What Are the Moon Viewing Events?
Many events occur during an Otsukimi celebration. During the day, families partake in crafts and learn Tsukimi songs. Of course, once the moon comes out during the evening, everyone spends time enjoying the view.
Other activities you can expect during the festival include offering Tsukimi dango to the gods and decorating with pampas grass.
Do You Decorate for Tsukimi?
Yes, many traditional decorations are set up for the annual festival. You'll often see pampas grass spread around the moon viewing area. It is thought that pampas grass will help ward off any evil. They also look like rice plants when gathered in bunches, signifying a bountiful harvest.
Additionally, many people decorate their roofs as an offering to the moon god.
What Do You Eat During the Harvest Moon Festival?
Like any festival or celebration, specific foods are made during Tsukimi. For example, Tsukimi dango, aka dumplings for moon viewing, are typically eaten and displayed as an offering. These dumplings are plated in a triangle, with one yellow dumpling on top.
It’s also common to eat Tsukimi udon during this celebration. This dish includes a raw egg, nori (seaweed), and a tasty broth.
As an ode to this special holiday, our September 2022 box features a recipe (and the ingredients) for Tsukimi dango. Both dango and koshian (red bean) powder are included so that you can make your own Otsukimi dango at home.
Our monthly boxes are curated with Japanese ingredients and recipes to help you learn about the Japanese culinary world. Any ingredients you need beyond the box contents will be easily found at a local grocery store. Try it out, and let us know what you think!
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