Wagaya no O-tsuki-mi;
Our Moon Viewing Experience


On Jugo-ya (a Moon Viewing Night) tsuki-mi-dango (moon viewing dumplings), autumn vegetables and fruits are offered to the moon. Tsuki-mi-dango varies by region such as a pile of round white dumplings, dumplings covered with anko (sweetened bean-paste) or dumplings on a skewer. Autumn flowers such as Japanese bellflowers, Japanese pampas grass and chrysanthemums are also offered.


Each country identifies the markings of the moon in its own way; for example, a side view of a woman in the USA, a crab in Europe, a lion in the Middle East, an alligator in South America and a toad in China. In Japan, the folklore says that a rabbit is pounding steamed rice to make mochi on the moon. When Jugo-ya comes up, various rabbit-shaped sweets are sold. We often buy a rabbit-shaped O-manju (a Japanese style steamed bun) stuffed with anko.


In China on Jugo-ya, they have the custom of presenting geppei (a moon biscuit or a mooncake) as a gift to people who are close to them or take care of them. When I was a child, my family was friendly with a nearby Chinese family, and several times they gave us great geppei. Since then, I have loved geppei and buy some geppei every time I go to the Chinatowns in Kobe and Yokohama.


Naturally, our beloved dogs, Fu-chan and Oh-chan, were more interested in the dumplings than the moon. Oh-chan, at the age of only ten months was gazing at tsuki-mi-dango, suddenly jumped on the table and ate some of the dumplings.


In September 2013 (Heisei 25th yr), my family and I went to Mukojima Hyakka-en Park in Sumida Ward, Tokyo for the Moon Viewing Festival. Tsuki-mi-dango, vegetables, fruits and Japanese pampas grass were formally offered to the moon as Jugo-ya-kazari (a full moon decoration). We enjoyed various events such as a tea ceremony, the concert of koto (a long Japanese musical instrument having 13 strings resembling a horizontal harp) and the lighting event of lanterns with pictures painted on as well as moon viewing. This  was opened as a private garden in 1804 (Bunka 1st yr) by Sahara Kikuu who had formerly been an antique dealer from Sendai. At first, 360 trees of ume (a Japanese apricot) were planted, and gradually various seasonal flowers have been planted, mainly flowers with a close connection to Japanese ancient literature. In 1938 (Showa 13th yr), the garden was donated to Tokyo, and Tokyo opened the garden to the public for an entrance fee the year after. In March 1945 (Showa 20th yr), both the garden and its refined buildings were burnt down during the Great Tokyo Air Raid, but in 1949 (Showa 24th yr) the garden was reopened. Since 1978 (Showa 53rd yr), this garden has been designated as a beautiful national historic site under the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties.


In 2015 (Heisei 27th yr), my family and I went to Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island. It was on the day of Chushu-no-meigetsu (the harvest moon) that tsuki-mi-dango, taros and chestnuts were offered at Matsuyama-jo Castle Ropeway Station. According to the poster, the moon viewing festival with the title of “O-shiro to Tsuki-mi no Monogatari” (The Tale about the Castle and moon viewing) would be held at and around the castle on the night. In 1603 (Keicho 7th yr), Matsuyama Castle was originally constructed by Kato Yoshiaki. In 1784 (Tenmei 4th yr), the castle was struck by lightning and burned down, and in 1854 (Ansei 1st yr), the 12th feudal lord, Matsudaira Katsuyoshi reconstructed it. Later, the castle except for Dai-tenshu (the great keep or the great castle tower) burned down several times due to arson, accidental fires and air raids, but most parts of the castle are now reconstructed. The Dai-tenshu, one of the existing 12 castle towers, is designated as a national important cultural property. In addition, the castle was selected as one of Japan’s Top 100 Castles, one of Japan’s Top 100 historical parks and one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Viewing Sites. In 2009 (Heisei 21st yr), this castle was awarded two stars in the Michelin’s Practical Guidebook for Travelling Japan, also known as Michelin’s Green Guide Japan.


In September 2016, after my husband and I visited his grandparents’ grave, we dropped by the Okamato Taro Museum of Art which was nearby. Afterward we visited Nihon Minka-en in the same park. Minka-en is an outdoor museum of more than 20 traditional minka (private houses), including 9 important cultural properties and 1 important tangible folk-cultural property from various places in Japan. It was still hot and humid even in the middle of September and I exhaustedly walked around the extensive grounds. I felt better when I saw traditional Jugo-ya-kazari on engawa (Japanese-style wooden or bamboo verandas) of houses with a wonderful atmosphere. It was Jugo-ya, so Japanese pampas grass, tsuki-mi-dango, taros, sweet potatoes, persimmons, chestnuts and daikon (Japanese radishes) were arranged there. Although a lecture of Jugo-ya-kazari and a moon-viewing event were held that night, we couldn’t join them because we had to go home before the evening for our beloved dogs who were waiting for us.


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