Tsukimi, the Japanese Harvest Moon Festival

Tsukimi (Otsukimi or Jūgoya), the Japanese Harvest Moon Festival is being held in mid-autumn, on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. This day Japanese people enjoy looking at the moon which is said to be the brightest and most beautiful on this night in the whole year. Its exact date varies every year, but usually it falls around September-early October. The custom is said to originate from the moon-viewing parties from the Heian period, when aristocrats would gather under the full moon to compose and recite poems.

This year, Tsukimi is on the 10th of September (Saturday). Hopefully we’ll have a clear sky to enjoy the beauty of the full moon that night!

The traditional decorations and dishes offered on Tsukimi are pampa grass (susuki), along with traditional autumn vegetables and fruits like pumpkins, chestnuts and sweet potatoes, and lastly but most importantly mochis! The small moon shaped sweet mochi balls called tsukimi dango are usually piled on a tray in a pyramid shape as offerings to pray for good health.

Tsukimi Rabbit on the Moon

Why mochi?

Mochi is made from glutinous rice steamed and pounded in a mortar. It is believed to give a lot of physical power, and even supernatural energy to the eater. Rice has a central position in the Japanese diet and meal culture. In the feudal Japan the life of Japanese villages was built around the calendar of rice cultivation with spring festivals to pray for rich harvest, summer festivals to pray for protection against natural disasters and autumn festivals to celebrate harvest. Lower class people couldn’t afford to eat pure rice every day, but during these festivals everyone ate pure white rice, dishes made from glutinous rice and drank sake, also made from rice.

Rabbit on the moon?

The images that you’ll often see around this season have the moon with its shadows making a pattern looking like a rabbit, pounding mochi. But how did the rabbit get on the moon?

This imaginary comes from an old folk tale, where the Old Man in the Moon came down from the sky in the form of an old beggar, and met three friends in a forest: a mokey, a fox and a rabbit. The three friends offered to find some food for this poor and hungry old man. The mokey came back with some fruits and berries, the fox retuned with a fish, but the rabbit couldn’t find anything to offer to the old man. So the rabbit got an idea: they made a fire, and the rabbit decided to jump in the fire, offering itself to eat. Before the rabbit jumped into the fire the old man changed back to his original self, and took the rabbit with him to the moon as a reward for its kindness and sacrifice.

Celebrate your own Tsukimi this Saturday with us! We have a wide range of Japanese sweets, traditional red bean paste filled mochi and mochis with a modern twist: filled with chocolate ganache or strawberry cheesecake ice cream! You can also find a big variety of Japanese sake in our shop, and yummy side dishes to munch on while looking at the moon!

References

Ishigi, N. (2009). Food culture. In Y. Sugimoto, The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanse Culture (p300-316). Cambridge University Press.

Japan Information and Culture Center (Sept, 2015)  https://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/jicc/doc/Teaching%20Tuesday/2015/09-22-15-otsukimi.pdf

The Miyazaki Internationl Foundation (Oct, 2020) https://www.mif.or.jp/english/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/10/LivingE2010.pdf

Goverment of Japan Public Relations Office Highlighting Japan (Sept, 2013) https://dwl.gov-online.go.jp/video/cao/dl/public_html/gov/pdf/hlj/20130901/22-23.pdf

Aka Daifuku

Traditional Japanese sweet rice cake with sweet red bean (azuki) filling. 110g

£1.90
Shiro Daifuku

Sweet rice cake with sweet red bean (azuki) filling. 110g

£1.90
Kusa Daifuku

Traditional Japanese sweet rice cake with sweet red bean (azuki) filling. 110g

£1.90

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