Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Jugoya (Night of the Full Moon) - Japanese Encyclopedia
Written by ニコ
On the night of the full moon in September, there is a tradition where the Japanese people enjoy moon gazing. Let us introduce you to this autumn festival celebrated in Japan.
The Autumn Jugoya Festival
After the end of the summer, when the temperature begins to slowly drop, you will hear people mentioning the word "Jugoya". Jugoya, otherwise known as the "the night of the full moon" or the "night of the 15th", is the traditional custom of celebrating the autumn harvest. Let us introduce this custom of leisurely gazing the moon and spending time under the moonlight.
A Regular Event Celebrating the Autumn Harvest
When is the night of full moon?
In the past, the Japanese used the lunar calendar, which is different from the calendar we use today. The ways to count the months are different, and according to the lunar calendar, autumn arrived in the eighth month of the year. The fifteenth of the eighth month happened to be in the middle of autumn and people referred to the "night of the 15th" as the day to celebrate and appreciate the year's harvest.
With the lunar calendar following the waxing and waning of the moon, the 15th of the eighth month happened to be a full moon. Therefore, on the night of the 15th, it became a regular custom to observe the moon.
Why Offer Dango Rice Cakes and Pampas Grass?
In Japan, dango (Japanese) rice cakes and pampas grass are offered while watching the moon.
The reason behind this custom comes from the festival celebrating the crops.
The pampas grass represents the rice grains and wishes for good crops for the year. The pampas grass is also said to ward away evil.
The round dango rice cakes represent the full moon and have been used as an offering to pray for the good health of children and their descendants.
Rabbits On The Moon? The Way The World Sees The Moon
In Japan, it is said that there are rabbits on the moon. The belief has derived from the shapes of the craters on the moon which are said to look like rabbits. Therefore, many songs about the jugoya commonly feature rabbits.
What about the rest of the world?
In Europe, there are various perspectives depending on the area. In eastern Europe, they believe that the moon looks like the "portrait of a lady", while in southern Europe they see a "crab" and in northern Europe, they see "an old lady reading a book". Meanwhile, in Arabic countries, they see a "lion", which is the complete opposite from rabbits.
How To Spend The Jugoya
Why not enjoy a relaxing jugoya at home? Gaze up at the moon while sipping some sake under the moonlight.
Move your table by the window and decorate it with some pampas grass and round dango rice cakes. It will make you feel like you slipped back to the Heian period while sitting back and savoring some sake or a meal under the moon. With the dango as dessert, your dinner will instantly turn into a festival of the moon!
It would surely be a fun evening plan to search for some rabbits on the moon or talk about the various stories about the moon in the world.
Aside from the traditional festivities, during this season in Japan, there are many sweets and fast food delicacies related to the moon or the jugoya ceremony on sale. The "Tsukimi Moon Burger" is a classic. It is a hamburger with a large egg representing the moon inside the burger. It is a seasonal menu only available during this time, so it is worth a try!
How about making the jugoya night a special event, celebrating it with friends and family?