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Tsukimi (Jugoya): Night of the Harvest Moon in Japan

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The night of the Harvest Full Moon in September is a very special celebration in Japanese culture. People enjoy moon gazing with rice cakes and sake, expressing their gratitude for good health and their prayers for good crops. We introduce the autumn festival known as Tsukimi or Jugoya.

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The Harvest Moon Festival in Japan

Tsukimi (Jugoya): Night of the Harvest Moon

Photo by Pixta

After the end of the summer, when temperatures begin to drop, you will hear people mentioning the words Tsukimi or Jugoya. These words refer to "the night of the Harvest Full Moon," the traditional custom of celebrating the autumn harvest.

In 2023, the Tsukimi celebration is on September 29 (Friday), the night of the Harvest Moon. The full moon will reach its peak at 18:58 in the evening on this date.

Let us introduce this custom of leisurely gazing at the September Full Moon and spending time under the moonlight.

A Regular Event Celebrating the Autumn Harvest

When is the night of Harvest 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. That is why the night of the September Full Moon used to be called Jugoya (the 15th night).

The word Tsukimi literally means "viewing the moon" but it has come to refer to the entire celebration related to the Harvet Moon in Japan.

Why Offer Dango Rice Cakes and Silver Grass?

Jugoya (Night of the Harvest Moon) - Japanese Encyclopedia

Photo by Pixta

In Japan, dango (round glutinous rice cakes) and silver grass are displayed in homes during the Tsukimi celebration.

The reason behind this custom comes from the festival celebrating the crops.

The silver grass represents the rice grains and wishes for good crops for the year. The silver grass is also said to ward away evil.

The round 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

Tsukimi: Night of the Harvest Moon

Illustration by Pixta

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 tsukimi 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 of rabbits.

How to Spend the Tsukimi Festival in Japan

Jugoya (Night of the Harvest Moon) - Japanese Encyclopedia

Photo by Pixta

Most people in Japan enjoy a relaxing tsukimi celebration at home gazing up at the moon while sipping sake under the moonlight.

The silver grass and dango decorations make one feel like they've slipped back to the Heian period (794-1185) while sitting back and savoring some sake or a meal under the moonlight. It's fun to exchange stories about the moon in the world.

Special September Events for Tsukimi in Japan

Jugoya (Night of the Harvest Moon) - Japanese Encyclopedia

Picture courtesy of PR Times
Every year, a variety of tsukimi items fill the stores and moon-related events take place all around Japan.

In Tokyo, the stunning Moon Art Night Shimokitazawa 2023 event will be showcasing its beautiful rabbit installations at the Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine alongside 50 art projections and a giant floating moon this year!

Tsukimi (Jugoya): Night of the Harvest Moon in Japan

Picture courtesy of PR Times

Guests can enjoy gazing at the moon while relaxing under the stars surrounded by artwork in Tokyo's hip stylish neighborhood.

Moon Art Night Shimokitazawa 2023 takes place from September 16 to October 1. The main venue is the Shimokita Senrogai Open Space area near the east exit of Shimokitazawa Station.

Jugoya (Night of the Harvest Moon) - Japanese Encyclopedia

Picture courtesy of PR Times
Aside from the traditional festivities, during this season in Japan, there are many sweets and fast food delicacies related to the moon viewing celebration offered for a limited time.

The "Tsukimi Moon Burger" offered at McDonald's, KFC, and other chain eateries is a classic. It is a hamburger with a large egg inside representing the moon. This seasonal menu is only available during this time, so it is worth a try!

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