“Tsukimi” in Japanese is the custom event of viewing the moon in Japan. Especially, “Tshukimi” at the Harvest Moon in mid-autumn night is a traditional seasonal event. This is held on August 15 according to the lunar calendar, which is on September 19th this year 2013. Many Japanese appreciate the full moon, and traditionally, offer rice dumplings and Japanese pampas grass, seasonal fruits and vegetables to the moon.
The harvest moon is the moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox, and one of the most beautiful of the year with its perfectly round shape. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops. They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name is “Harvest Moon”.
Japanese imagine that the shadow of moon shapes like as a rabbit pounding boiled rice into rice cake. We are taught by our parents or teachers about the story “ a rabbit in the moon” since we were children. Unfortunately, I do not know the correct origin of the imagination, but there is a few Japanese folklores the moon and a rabbit, so I will introduce one of them now. I will write the rest later if I have a chance…
Anyway, we can see the rabbit motif in many traditional Japanese objects and scenes still now…Kimonos, Japanese dinnerware, Japanese tea things…if you have a chance to see them, please remember that motif is Japanese traditional style!
Below 1st photo; the very old rabbit motif cloth
“The Moon and a Rabbit”
Long, long ago there lived an old man and his wife in a village. Being honest and hard workers, they were always so poor and lived from hand to mouth.
One day he went to a mountain as usual to get woods, when he found a rabbit caught in a trap. He freed her from it.
A few days later, a lady in white Kimono visited their house.
“Excuse me. I’m so sorry to disturb you. I lost my parents and my house because of the fire. I have no place to go. Please help me. Please let me stay here with you. I’ll do whatever I can do for you. please”
“I see. You can stay here in this house if you want to. But as you see, we are so poor that we don’t have much rice.” said the old man.
As the old couple had no child, they took care of her as if she were their own daughter.
She worked and worked, helping her father with the rice-field and getting woods, helping her mother with cooking, washing, sewing and so on. Having worked day after day, their life never changed for the better.
One night under the full moon, she said to her parents,
“My dear parents. I’m a rabbit helped by you in a mountain. To tell the truth, I came from the moon to meet my friends on the earth. It was careless of me to be caught in a trap. I wanted to help you in return for your kindness. But I can’t change your life. You are always hungry and poor. The last thing I can do for you is ….Please eat me.”
On saying so, she changed into a white rabbit and jumped into a big pot, in which stew was being cooked, on the hearth.
They tried to help her but it was too late. The steam out of the stew went up and up to the moon.
To their surprise, they saw the rabbit smiling and making rice cake in the full moon. They never felt hungry.