Did you know that there is an event similar to Thanksgiving in Japan? It is called otsukimi, which means moon viewing.
Otsukimi is to enjoy viewing the beautiful full moon of autumn. In 2023, it will land on Friday, September 29th. It is said that because this date is in the harvest season, this event became a time to give thanks for the autumn harvest.
It is customary to make offerings of otsukimi dango dumplings and agricultural products, decorate with susuki silver grass, and pray for a bountiful harvest.
This week, we will introduce otsukimi and recipes of the dishes with the ingredients Maido offers to celebrate it. Here we go!
What is Otsukimi?
A work depicting an otsukimi party held by Emperor Godaigo (Kamakura - Nanbokucho period)
The brightest and most beautiful moon of the year is August 15 on the lunar calendar. The full moon on this day is called chushu no meigetsu or mid-autumn moon, and the culture of otsukimi, to appreciate the beautiful moon, has taken root in Japan. In the modern solar calendar, the date of otsukimi varies from year to year, but in the lunar calendar, the date is determined based on the phases of the moon, so the same day is chosen every year for chushu no meigetsu.
The custom of appreciating the chushu no meigetsu can be found in ancient records from the Tang Dynasty in China. It is thought that the roots of otsukimi can be traced back to the Heian period (794-1185), when the custom spread among the aristocracy. The Tale of Genji, a tale in Heian-period written by Murasaki Shikibu, describes a party called tsuki no en (moon party) where people enjoyed drinks and music. It is interesting to note that, like Christmas and Halloween, Japanese people take a foreign custom and make it into an event that everyone enjoys together!
The custom of tsuki no utage by the nobility gradually spread to the ordinary people. However, it developed into the jugoya matsuri festival, which had a strong meaning of celebrating a good harvest and praying for a bountiful crop, rather than simply appreciating the moon. In the Edo period (1603-1867), even ordinary people enjoyed this seasonal event by appreciating the moon on a boat.
The moon used to fascinate people more. Nowadays, we may not often gaze at the moon, but there is only one moon in the world. Isn't it romantic to think that you are looking at the same moon with someone far away (such as Japan!) or someone from the Heian period? The moon connects people with each other, transcending time and place. The moon is such an existence. Otsukimi is an event that few people celebrate in Japan compared to Obon or New Year's, but we would like everyone to appriciate the moon on this special night.
We will introduce a fun otsukimi culture in Japan in the next blog post.
There is a lot of food items, housewares, stationery, and gifts available at the store and our online store, Maido! Kairashi Shop, where you can place your order for shipping or store pickup! Happy shopping. :)