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Tsukimi: A Fall Tradition From the Heian Period

Tsukimi, a long-held Japanese tradition. Tsukimi is to experience fall while viewing the moon. It’s similar to hanami, flower-viewing in the spring. Tsukimi actually has many deep connotations to it. Today we’re going to explain these meanings and manners, as well as how it’s done in today’s modern age. A certain famous manga also has connections to this tradition. How much do you know about today’s topic?


When is it held?

It’s held on the 15th night of the eighth month (juugoya) and the 13th night of the ninth month (juusanya) of the traditional Japanese solar calendar. For 2015, this means 9/27 and 10/25, respectively. It’s said to be a bad omen to only participate in one. But the 15th one is more famous so there are many who don’t do the 13th night. The day it’s held varies every year.


Why this season?

Because there are days for the full moon 12-3 times a year. But it’s a little off from the exact day of the full moon. For instance, this year the full moon is 9/28. The day of the full moon changes each year like the 15th and 13th nights change each year. It’s said that the 15th night moon is especially pretty.


What do you do?

Basically, you make offerings and enjoy food and drink while everyone looks at the pretty moon. The offerings you give have various meanings to them.


Tsukimi Dango

 – Dango are made from rice flour and look similar to a moon, so they symbolize thanks for the rice harvest.


 – Susuki (pampas grass) resembles the head of rice plants so it’s used to wish for next year’s grain harvest to be plentiful. Susuki is also used as a sign for inviting the moon gods. And after the celebrations are finished you hang the susuki grass on your front door to ward off evil spirit and stay healthy for a year.


 – Anything harvested this year like potatoes, fruit or alcohol. Especially good are taro potato, sweet potato and fruits with stalks (like grapes). Stalk fruit are said to tie together the moon and people.

You also pray for good health and happiness as you do tsukimi and eat the offerings. For tsukimi dango, you’ll eat 15 on the 15th night. The proper way to stack them is (starting from the bottom) 9, 4, 2.


Modern Items Based Off Tsukimi Origins

1. Rabbit-shaped Manju

Have you noticed these Japanese manju (steamed buns) before? In every country, it’s believed that the moon has some shape to it. In Japan, it’s said to be a rabbit making mochi.
Related: 5 Café Recommendations in Higashi Chaya District that Offers Premium Wagashi

2. Tsukimi Burgers

This is a popular tsukimi burger during the fall season. Japanese people love them. The sunnyside-up eggs wedged in the middle resemble the moon. They’re fairly good so try one!
Related: Why the Japanese Hamburgers are Oh-So Popular with Foreign Tourists?

3. Sailor Moon

The name of Sailor Moon from the internationally-famous manga is Tsukino Usagi (meaning the rabbit [usagi] that lives in the moon [tsukino]).
Related: Sailor moon iphone cases for only 390 yen!


Recommendation on how to Celebrate

Long ago, the tradition wasn’t to look up at the moon but rather to look at the moon from the surface of the water. It’s a great experience to ride a boat and do tsukimi by looking at the reflection in the water like in olden times!

The Meaning Behind Obon Holiday and Methods that Have Been Passed Down
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