Monday, September 19, 2005


It was the night of harvest moon last night. As you can probably imagine, many moon-viewing related events were held at various places in this prefecture (and all over Japan, I suppose).

The custom of appreciating the moon is said to have come to Japan from China, perhaps more than 1,000 years ago. It is supposed to take place on the night of the 15th of August by the lunar calendar. The custom has been modified here and now the typical items for the moon-viewing in Japan are susuki (Japanese silver grass), rabbit and dumplings.

Japanese silver grass is an ornamental grass very commonly seen blooming on the roadside at this time of the year. No one seems to be sure exactly why it became associated with moon-viewing here in Japan. Anyway it’s abundant, and has an image of sentimental beauty in a sense, so it's no surprise that people in olden days were tempted to use the grass for this nature-oriented celebration.

Then what about the rabbit and dumplings? It’s largely related to the shape of the seas of the moon, I suppose. Have you heard that people in different countries have associated the shape with different things? In this site, the illustration on top shows what we associate it with in Japan: a rabbit making rice cakes with a mortar and a pestle.

Actually, as mentioned in this site, there are people other than the Japanese who have associated rabbit with the moon. I assume that our "rabbit in the moon" legend came from China and it has been closely related to the way we see the seas of the moon. Dumplings were probably chosen to symbolize the moon because of their round shape and also in relation to the rice cakes the rabbit is said to be making there.

OK, so much for the background information. Today I wanted to take a look at some of the moon-viewing related events, because I couldn’t see any last year!

The closest venue was Kochi Castle, and I spent about an hour in late afternoon taking some photos there. There were several bonsai with the theme, “the moon” displayed inside the castle, and tea ceremony meetings and koto (Japanese traditional instrument) performance were also held there all afternoon till late evening.

It was interesting to be there, thinking that people did the same thing hundreds of years ago at exactly the same place. It would have been much better if there was actually the moon in the sky, but it was still too early for that when I was there.

To view the moon later in the evening, my friend and I went to Katsurahama beach, the place said to be the best moon-viewing spot in Kochi. We really didn't expect to see the moon there, because it was pretty cloudy, but we felt the urge to do something to highlight this long weekend. We had a backup plan of watching a special event for the moon-viewing night at the aquarium there: “observing beautiful luminous plankton.” Sounded like they were going to show visitors the plankton lighting up in a large tank or something. We thought that would be worth watching, but the plan turned out to be a BIG mistake. :O

At the beach, as expected, the sky was coverd with clouds and we couldn't see the moon at all. All we saw was bunch of Japanese silver grass, apparently transplanted temporarily for this particular event only, a special decoration with local sake and food offered to the harvest moon, and PEOPLE.

As is often the case with this friend and I visiting somewhere together, things went worse and worse. We bought tickets to enter the aquarium to see the luminous plankton, then the guy at the counter said, “The 19:30 show is already full. You’ll have to wait until the next one at 20:30.” WHAT!? Why didn't he tell us so before we buy the tickets??? But too late...We finally decided not to wait until the next show but just to look around in the aquarium and leave, because my friend had to drive a long way home.

Spiderman was working overtime

These are the photos of a few fish tanks that were lit up… The rest of the tanks were much darker and we couldn't figure out what was inside. It was a real waste of time and money, and the admission fee was soooooooooo EXPENSIVE!!

Disappointed, my friend and I left the beach and had supper at a ramen place on our way back. She dropped me off at the city hall and drove home. I didn't feel like going straight home, so I had a quick drink at Hirome before heading home. When I was bicycling near the castle on my way to my apartment, the moon appeared from the clouds and I had this crazy idea of going up to the castle real quick to take this photo.

The castle under the moon

Because of the beer, I dosed off a few hours and then woke up at around 3:30 a.m. I was tempted to go out in the balcony, and Wow!! There was absolutely no cloud in the sky and the full moon was just breathtakingly gorgeous!! There I finally did my real moon-viewing of this year, listening to my favorite music with an earphone.

The world was so full of serene and sentimental beauty with the chirping of crickets in the background.

It’s Autumn now.

Background music: “Autumn Moon” by Hiroshima
- Absolutely the best for moon viewing -
posted by obachan, 9/19/2005 02:44:00 PM


Wonderful descriptions and beautiful photos....I am impressed with all the special occasions you celebrate in Japan...
Is this the holiday when you make something special wih sticky potatoes ( I think yamaimo) ...My grandmother used to grate them and make some sort of sticky paste and I ate it with rice and shoyu... I remember my face getting all red and itchy where the potatoes touched my face....ahhh...great memories. 

Posted by carlyn
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9/20/2005 2:22 AM  
Hi Obachan

In a few weeks, we are going to the National Arboretum here in Washington DC to go to the Japanese moon watching festival. It will be $25, including a bento. It will be nice but I doubt that they will make rabbit dumplings in that bento. It will be a very common japanese meal, I suppose: rice, chicken teriyaki, pickled radish, lettuce. It should be really fun nevertheless. Last night was the Chinese Moon Festival, and the moon was so shiny, glorious, in a navy-blue sky, just there all night long like a beautiful candle. It seems like a waste that the beautiful moon shines all night long and most people are sleeping with their eyes closed.
The chinese version of the moonwatching festival is going to a mountain top with your family, bring a blanket, and pack a picnic that includes a grapefruit like fruit, some moon cakes, and a variety of other picnic foods that often includes stewed eggs, tofu, and chicken claws!


Posted by joanna
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9/20/2005 2:46 AM  
I do know the yamaimo dish you are talking about, (it’s something like this, right?) but I don’t think we eat that for any special holiday around here. Yeah, that’s itchy.

I’m glad that you had a wonderful Chinese Moon Festival. Moon cakes with lotus seed paste filling are my absolute favorite, though I can hardly find them in Kochi. But I didn’t know they eat chicken claws for moon-viewing picnic!! Mmmm….
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/21/2005 1:46 AM  
I believe that is it... !!!! I only remember the great taste and the itchy face.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9/21/2005 7:11 AM  
The spiderman photo caught my attention :)
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10/11/2005 8:07 AM  
I thought that was cute.
commented by Blogger obachan, 10/12/2005 12:50 AM  

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