In the autumn, the Japanese celebrate the custom of otsukimi, or literally “moon viewing.”
Twice a year, Japanese people make offerings of white rice dumplings, or dango, by presenting them in a pyramid shape at an altar while enjoying the view of the full moon in hopes of a bountiful harvest. This also expresses their appreciation for an abundant crop received in the last season.
These rice dumplings are made into a pyramid shape as people believe this will most likely deliver their thoughts to the places where deities reside.
Since we are mere ordinary people and not part of the NASA, we certainly can’t “enjoy the moon” by traveling to it.
Instead, we enjoy the moon by admiring the fullness of it amidst the cool autumn breeze while relishing in the delicate beauty and serenity during this time of changing seasons.
The notion of beauty resulting from stillness is the essence of this elegant custom that is uniquely Japanese.
According to the lunar calendar, the moon of August 15 is referred to as chushunomeigetsu or jugoya, while the moon of September 13 is referred to as jusanya.
Although it may differ somewhat with each region, it is customary to offer 15 tsukimi dango on jugoya, and offer 13 of them on jusanya by stacking them together.
The culture of moon viewing is said to have originated in China. However, the custom of jusanya is only observed in Japan as a unique cultural practice.
Incidentally, both jugoya and jusanya have been considered to be equally important since ancient times. The Japanese people consider it bad luck if only one of the two days is celebrated. Such an act is called katamizuki and katatsukimi, which means partial moon viewing.
Otsukimi is also known as Japanese Halloween, and there is also the custom of playing otsukimi dorobo, or moon viewing thieves.
Each household makes offerings of rice dumplings by placing them on the edge of their eaves or on the porch. Such offerings are then taken by neighborhood children for snacks. Although in this case, the children are not really considered thieves. As people believe the more rice dumplings that get taken from you, the better luck you will have, the placement of rice dumplings is actually determined ahead of time to make more accessible to children.
Unfortunately, this custom is rarely known nor practiced by modern day Japanese people. If you try something like this, you may even end up getting in trouble. I know. We live in a cold world.
Today neighbors in Japan hardly interact anymore like they used to. I’d like to wish on the full moon that this custom be practiced again to promote closer relationships within the community.