What is “Otsukimi”? The Autumn Tradition of Moon Viewing in Japan

Oct 17, 2018


Have you ever heard the word ‘Otsukimi’ before?
It means viewing the moon in Japanese.
People in Japan enjoy viewing the moon in autumn, and that custom is very traditional in Japan.
Autumn is the best season for it because it gets cooler, and people can go outside in the night.
It is very nice to enjoy for it with feeling the gentle breeze of fall.
Although it is one of the most traditional event in Japan, many people do not know its history.
In addition to that if they hear the word `Otsukimi`, they remind of moon-viewing dumplings and Japanese miscanthus sinensis.
What is more, people in Japan believe that there are rabbits pounding steamed rice to make rice cake on the moon.
Why people in Japan remind them and think of that if they hear the word?
This article introduces what they are and the history of `Otsukimi`.
Let’s see how people in Japan enjoy for it in autumn.

 

 

1. The History of Viewing the Moon

`Otsukimi`, which means viewing the moon, is the event which is done on August 15th on the old lunar calendar.
It is also called as `Jyugoya’ in Japanese.
‘Jyugo’ means fifteen and ‘ya’ means the night, so it means 15th night if it is directory translated.
It is different each year because it is based on the old lunar calendar.
Therefore, it comes from the middle of September to the beginning of October on the solar calendar.
Because of that, although ‘Jyugoya’ should be the day when people enjoy seeing the full moon, it is not necessarily the full moon day every year.

In addition to that, it is said people in Japan used to enjoy it on September 13th on the old lunar calendar as well in the old time.
Therefore, they have used to enjoy the event twice a year once upon a time although people in Japan hold the event only once on August 15th on the old lunar calendar now a days.

It is said it has spread in Japan around 8 century, but no one knows the exact history although it is one of the most traditional events in Japan which has been done until now.
It is believed that it origins to Chinese event which has been took place on the Court.

 

2. How People in Japan Enjoy It
People in Japan believe that there are rabbits pounding steamed rice to make rice cake on the moon, and it is said that this story origins to Indian mythology.
It is said what people imagine by seeing the moon is different in each country.
For example, it is an old woman who is reading a book in the north Europe, a crab which has big claws in the south Europe, a barking lion in Arabia.

 

 

 

On `Jyugoya`, people in Japan prepare moon-viewing dumplings and Japanese miscanthus sinensis.
They are what Japanese people remind when they hear the word `Jyugoya`.
There are some reasons why they prepare for them.
For the reason of moon-viewing dumplings are because they symbolize of the full moon, and it is typical for a harvest, health, and fortune.
It is believed that if people have them on `Jyugoya`, they are able to get health and fortune.
Although the main image is moon-viewing dumplings which are white color, there are some regions where people prepare another type of dumplings such as using a red bean paste.
For the reason of Japanese miscanthus sinensis is because it is the object representative of a divine spirit.
In addition to that, it is believed as an amulet to ward off evils.
It is said that if people put it at the entrance of their houses on `Jyugoya`, they are able to stay in good health for the next one year.

 

 

In conclusion, it is one of the most traditional events held in Japan which is said the origin is from China.
It is said it has spread in Japan in 8 century.
People used to hold the event twice a year in the old time, but it is only once on August 15th on the old lunar calendar now a days.
People in Japan remind of rabbits pounding steamed rice to make rice cake on the moon.
In addition to that, Japanese people prepare for moon-viewing dumplings and Japanese miscanthus sinensis, and each of them have the reason.
They are both for wishing their health and fortune.
Although it is not always the full moon day on `Jyugoya` because it is based on the old lunar calendar, people in Japan have been holding the event from the long time ago.
It is very nice to enjoy for it with feeling the gentle breeze of autumn on the `Jyugoya` night.
You are able to experience one of the most traditional Japanese events on that day.
Why don’t you come to Japan to enjoy such a special event which is held only once a year in autumn?

Aika Kaise / Japan

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