Tsukimi Festival Traditions and Culture
Tsukimi festival is traditionally celebrated on the 15th of the 8th month of the old calendar, and in 2018 this jugoya (fifteenth night) falls on September 24th.
Tsukimi festival originates in the Heian era (794 to 1185). In this period, Japanese nobles would gather and read the poetry while drinking sake and viewing the moon. In the Japanese lunisolar calendar, this gathering usually falls on the 8th month. The Japanese believed that the 8th month is the most favorable timing for the moon viewing since the positions of the Earth, sun, and moon further illuminate the night sky.
Later, the event developed to much more; decorations were made, Tsukimi ryori, sake, and other food were shared by everyone viewing the moon. People who attended the gathering also started expressing their gratitude to moon god and praying for another bountiful harvest. Even when the moon is not visible or there is rain, the festival is still being held. The Japanese call it mugetsu (no moon), or ugetsu (rain moon).
The most common activity during Tsukimi is to offer food and sake to the moon. One the most common Tsukimi offerings are Tsukimi-dango. These round white dumplings are usually stacked in a pyramid shape where the tip symbolizes the connection to the spiritual world. People also often eat soba or udon noodles topped with an egg, as the egg represents the moon. Other offerings may include an arrangement of susuki (Chinese silver grass), which is said to protect the home from negative powers.
Tsukimi festival also celebrates the folklore legend about rabbits living on the moon, which plays a major role in the festival. The story goes like this:
“A long time ago, the spirit of the moon came to earth in the form of an old man. He came upon several animals and begged them for food. The fox offered fish and the badger fruit, but the rabbit had nothing to give, so he had the other animals build a fire and he offered to give himself as a sacrifice to the man by throwing himself into the fire and allowing the beggar to eat him! But before the rabbit could do so, the spirit of the moon transformed back into his original form. He thought that the rabbit was a very kind soul and took it to live on the moon with him.”
To this day, the Japanese continue to honor this old tale. Restaurants, fast food chains, and other places in Japan have rabbit-themed foods to celebrate this folklore and the festival. You can also find scenes of rabbits gathered together or rabbits pounding mochi (rice cakes), which is one of the Tsukimi ryori.
Tsukimi Sake Recommendation
To commemorate this festival, you can also offer sake to the moon in order to thank for an abundant harvest!
The recommended sake is Eikun Kotosennen Junmai Ginjo which is super clean and fruity. Sweet and sour fragrance reminiscent of grapefruit, mandarin orange, pineapple and yogurt slowly spreads in the mouth until the very end of the palate. It is made with highest quality ingredients from Kyoto prefecture. Water comes from Fushimi which is distinguished by having access to spring water of exceptional quality. This water produces elegant, not too overly sweet, and soft sake. It is made with Iwai rice which gives this sake fragrance and nice mouthfeel.
We invite you to have Tsukimi festival in your home, while sipping sake and reading some poetry with the view of the moon. Toast the beauty of the harvest moon with Eikun Jumai Ginjo Koto Sennen!