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Otsukimi - Moon-Viewing Autumn Festival

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Every year, from the beginning of September until the Harvest moon in October, Japanese Tea Ceremony events are typically performed around the theme of viewing the Autumn Full Moon.

This is the season when the sky is said to be at its clearest and the moon at its most beautiful.

Otsukimi [お月見] literally translates to [月 -tsuki] Moon [見-mi] Viewing.

The tradition includes decorations with rice dumplings called dango and stalks of grass along with imagery of a rabbit.

Why a rabbit you ask?

Well, have you ever heard the story of the rabbit in the moon (tsuki no usagi)?

In Japan, instead of seeing a man on the moon it is said that there is a rabbit pounding mochi/ rice with a mortar and pestle.

The story goes:

"Many years ago, the Old Man of the Moon decided to visit the Earth. He disguised himself as a beggar and asked Fox (Kitsune), Monkey (Saru), and Rabbit (Usagi) for some food.

Monkey climbed a tree and brought him some fruit. Fox went to a stream, caught a fish, and brought it back to him. But Rabbit had nothing to offer him but some grass. So he asked the beggar to build a fire. After the beggar started the fire, Rabbit jumped into it and offered himself as a meal for the beggar to eat.

Quickly the beggar changed back into the Old Man of the Moon and pulled Rabbit from the fire.

He said "You are most kind, Rabbit, but don't do anything to harm yourself. Since you were the kindest of all to me, I'll take you back to the moon to live with me."

The Old Man carried Rabbit in his arms back to the moon and he is still there to this very day exactly where the Old Man left him. Just look at the moon in the night sky and the rabbit is there."

In October 2017, we attended two Otsukimi; one at the Cultural Centre and another at a Buddhist temple.

The Cultural Centre Ceremony was more of an exhibition while the Tea Ceremony at the Buddhist Temple was a bit more formal and included both thin and thick tea as well as a meal.

Both experiences were extremely enriching.

Moon and Tea Ceremony (Tsuki no cha)

The harvest moon is meant to be on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. On that night, plants are arranged and offerings of rice dumplings, persimmons, potatoes and sake. This is the way to view the bright moon. When this is incorporated in to tea, it is tsukimi no cha (tea while viewing the moon).

It is best to have this in a formal tea gathering. When and where to view the moon depends on how experienced the host is. It can happen upon entering the roji, in the middle of the tea or when stepping out into the moonlight on the way home.

In any case the rise of the moon should not be missed.

As a moon AND tea lover, this might be one of my favourite times of the year on the tea calendar.

Nadya "Moon" Dee

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