Don’t miss Japan’s ‘jugo-ya’ moon tsukimi tonight!

Photo by 123RF
Photo by 123RF

Don’t miss Japan’s ‘jugo-ya’ moon tsukimi tonight!

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Every late summer/early fall season in Japan, there are two opportunities for tsukimi, or moon-viewing. This year, the first opportunity arrives tonight, on Sept. 29 with the jugo-ya moon.

Tsukimi, or moon-viewing, is one of many Japanese customs for celebrating the fall season, and to wish for a rich harvest and prosperity for the coming year. This is also one of the most favored settings for declarations of love.

According to the old lunar calendar, the jugo-ya and jusan-ya moons fall on the 15th night of August and the 13th night of September, or Sept. 29 and Oct. 27 on the Gregorian calendar.

On these dates, the Japanese custom is to set out tsukimi dango dumplings and other round-shaped seasonal foods, along with sake and sprigs of “susuki” grass in sort of make-shift shrine. This display is arranged on a porch or in a corridor in plain view of the moon.

Other tsukimi foods include taro root, soybeans, chestnuts, persimmons.

Photo by Miyuki Takiguchi

There are a number of other customs that may be observed depending on where you are. As a kind of pre-harvest-fest activity, for example, the sprigs of susuki grass represent rice and are sometimes hung from the eaves of a home to ward off illness after an evening of moon viewing.

One old custom, slightly reminiscent of trick-or-treat in the States, encourages children to go around the neighborhood “stealing” the dumplings and other offerings on the tables. The stolen offerings are considered to have been accepted by the moon, thus the more stolen, the better.

In Okinawa, the light of the harvest moon was once used to divine households’ fortunes for the coming year in some areas. Locals would make rice cakes with sweet beans called “fuchagi,” offer them to the moon, then climb a nearby hill to survey their village by moonlight. It was said that residents of homes that appeared dark would be prosperous, while those whose houses appeared bright would be less fortunate.

Tsukimi sounds like the perfect activity to wrap up a busy summer and enjoy the incoming fall season. Take a moment tonight (Sept. 29) to enjoy the beautiful moon and try some of the tasty seasonal treats you’re sure to find at your local grocery store.

Photo by Miyuki Takiguchi


Harvesting Tradition

Speakin’ Japanese

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