Today on the 12 of September, we´ll have a beautiful full moon. And this full moon is a little special for Japanese. Normally full moon is called Mangetsu (満月) in Japanese and only the one in September is called Chuushuu no Meigetsu (the harvest moon / 中秋の名月). Chuushuu means in the middle of autumn and Meigetsu means great moon or marvellas moon.
The night of the full moon in September is also known as Juugoya (十五夜), means the night of the 15th. You may think "but it´s the 12nd", yes it´s the 15th of August on the lunar calendar. As July, August and September were autumn according to the lunar celendar, the full moon in August is Chuushuu no Meigetsu, the great moon in the middle of autumn. Now it makes sense, right?
Apart from contemplating the beautiful moon, Chuushuu no Meigetsu also has a significant meaning. This is the first day of the harvest and people used to celebrate it. Nowadays we just enjoy meigetsu with tsukimi-dango (full moon dumpling / 月見団子) and susuki (ススキ), Japanese pampas grass which is believed to be a charm. In some regions, they celebrate with potatoes which also is in the harvest and they call this day imo no meigetsu (the great moon of potatoes / 芋の名月).
Tsukimi dango : Round shape is a imitation of the full moon.
Full moon and susuki is a topic in Japanese autumn night.
The custom of appreciating the harvest moon seemed to start in China in Tang period, Tou (唐/ 618-907) in Japanese. In Heian period (平安時代) in Japan, the aristocrats started celebrating it then later it spread into samurai and normal people as an annual event.
Every time when I say this, my friends look at me with a strange face but I´ll tell you this. I know that in the western world, there is a man´s face in the moon like this.
And most of my friends are so convinced that they can see a man´s face in it.
I disagree. Sorry, but I cannot see it.
So what I see?
What I see is two rabbits making mochi (rice cake / 餅). Like this.
It´s a very basic common sense for us to recognise this image on the full moon, and honestly I can see them.
You might see this symbol in some Japanese traditional sweets shop as they are making mochi.
You may laugh at me but that´s OK, I won´t change my opinion.
This is a kids´ song about usagi (rabbits / ウサギ) and this explains how important the moon for rabbits.
なに みて はねる
Nani mite haneru
Juugoya otsuki sam
What makes you jump?
He´s looking at the harvest moon
And jumping at it.
Enjoy looking at the most beautiful moon in the year tonight!
More Japanese customs