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Yoko Kawakami
My Eyes Tokyo E/J Translator


This year’s crazy hot summer seems to be ending in Japan. The calls and sounds made by insects at night tell us that the season is gradually but certainly changing. Now Japanese people are waiting for autumn, looking up at the sky at night, thinking of “o-tsukimi”. Well…

What is o-tsukimi?

“O-tsukimi (おつきみ/お月見)”, or just “tsukimi (つきみ/月見)”, means “moon viewing” in Japanese. People enjoy watching the full moon in September that is thought to be the most beautiful moon in a year. They prepare special rice dumplings, place them to the moon in the balcony or by the window with other offerings and watch the full moon together. After watching the moon, they share the offerings.

Tsukimi,moon-viewing-party,japanPhoto from wikipedia


When is o-tsukimi?

The day of o-tsukimi is on August 15th in the lunar calendar (Yes, many Japanese traditional events are based on the lunar calendar). In the year of 2015, it is on September 27th. The dates of the full moon in the coming years are: – September 15th in 2016 – October 4th in 2017 – September 24th in 2018 – September 13th in 2019 – October 1st in 2020  


The origin of o-tsukimi

The full moon of this season is called “Chushu-no-meigetsu (ちゅうしゅうのめいげつ/中秋の名月, the beautiful moon of mid-autumn)” or “Jugo-ya (じゅうごや/十五夜, the 15th moon)”. It is said that the event of watching the full moon was introduced from ancient China in the Tang (唐) Dynasty to Japan’s imperial court. On the other hand, Japanese people had their own event from ancient times to worship the moon as a deity and appreciate the moon for the harvest. Later these two events merged together and became the moon-viewing event in the present form of “o-tsukimi”.


How to do O-tsukimi

dango-kantoPhoto from web

At homes, people prepare rice dumplings called “o-tsukimi dango (おつきみだんご/お月見団子)”. It’s ball-like shape is said to resemble the shape of the full moon. Usually fifteen balls are piled in the shape of a pyramid on a plate, in association with the name “jugo-ya,” the 15th moon. In addition, people place the plant called “susuki (すすき/芒/薄, silver grass)” in a vase and put some harvest of the season such as chestnuts, potatoes, Japanese persimmons and so on. In some areas, people offer a kind of potato called “sato-imo (さといも/里芋, taro)” so that they call the o-tsukimi “imo-meigetsu (いもめいげつ/芋名月, beautiful taro moon)”.

If you would like to make your o-tsukimi offerings more gorgeously, you could decorate with the autumn flowers called “Aki-no-nanakusa (あきのななくさ/秋の七草, the seven flowers of autumn)”, including;

hagi (萩, Japanese bush clover)
hagi (萩, Japanese bush clover)
susuki (芒/薄, silver grass)
kuzu (葛, kudzu, arrowroot)
nadeshiko (撫子, fringed pink)
ominaeshi (女郎花, golden lace)
fujibakama (藤袴, boneset)
Minolta DSC
kikyo (桔梗, balloon flower)

Photos from wikipedia


O-tsukimi related things in present Japan

十五夜(満月/ススキ野)Image from web

Rabbit on the moon
Have you ever noticed that there are the images of rabbits with the full moon in Japanese illustrations? The moon, especially the full moon, reminds people of rabbits, because the ancient Japanese people imagined that a rabbit was pounding mochi (もち/餅, rice cakes) on the moon’s surface. What do you see on the full moon’s surface?

img7bf72ee8zik1zjPhoto from web

Tsukimi Burger
You may have already heard of the food names with the word “(o-) tsukimi” at Japanese restaurants, such as “tsukimi udon (月見うどん)” and “tsukimi soba (月見そば)”. On these noodles, there is an fried-egg sunny-side up regarded as the full moon. One of the most famous and modern tsukimi-named food would be the “Tsukimi Burger (月見バーガー)”, offered by McDonald’s Japan. This burger is only offered in September, so don’t miss it!


Let’s make o-tsukimi dango!

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You can make o-tsukimi dango, a kind of rice dumplings, much easier than you imagine! How about cooking it by yourself and enjoying o-tsukimi this year? All you need to prepare this: – 300g Joshin-ko (じょうしんこ/上新粉) *Joshin-ko is the rice flour made of uruchi-mai (うるちまい/うるち米), a kind of rice which we eat as gohan (ごはん/ご飯). You can find Joshin-ko at ordinary supermarkets in Japan. – 2 big tablespoons of sugar – Pinch of salt – boiling water

1. Put Joshin-ko, sugar and salt together in a bowl and mix them.
2. Pour some boiling water, little by little, thoroughly and mix them until it gets as soft as your earlobe (!).
3. Start boiling water in a saucepan.
4. Divide the dough and make balls with a diameter of 2 – 3 centimeters (1 inch). Create at least 15 or more.
5. Boil the dough balls in a saucepan.


Have a wonderful O-tsukimi night on September 27th!

*Proofread by Daniel Penso
*Produced by Chieko Tanaka (My Eyes Tokyo)