Updated: Sep 19
What is Otsukimi?
Otsukimi is similar to Ohanami as it is for an appreciation and celebration of the nature. The difference is that moon viewing is has little more quiet and stillness in feeling. Direct translation of Otsukimi is moon viewing. In the autumn, the air is clear, the nights are pleasant, and the moon shines brightly at night. It is the day to enjoy the brightest full moon of the year and appreciate autumn harvest.
What is Otsukimi? When is it celebrated？ How people in Heian period enjoyed？ My childhood experience Modern Days Easy odango recipe
In the old days, people referred to lunar calendar for planning and harvesting and people worshiped the moon. The bright full moon in autumn was also called harvest moon and was praised and appreciated by the people.
The small table is set and dumplings and autumn produce such as sweet potatoes, apple, and grapes are placed as offerings to the moon.
When is it celebrated？
It is celebrated on 15th night of lunar calendar called Jyuugoya (十五夜). It is the night for the brilliant full moon. The moon on this day of the year is considered the brightest and the most beautiful, so it is also called the bright moon of the mid-autumn. Cyuu Syuu no Meigetsu (中秋の名月). The full moon of Tsukimi arrives on different dates each year. In 2021 it is 21st September, and in 2022, it is on 10th September.
How the people in Heian period (794-1184) enjoyed moon viewing? The nobility of the Heian period were famously fond of viewing the moon reflected on the surface of a pond or sake in a flat cups.
My Childhood Experience
On this day, my mother would prepare Otsukimi Dango (moon viewing dampling) made with glutenous flour, and stack them on top of each other in to the pyramid shape. She would ask us to gather Japanese silver grass from roadside. It can usually be found easily. She would also ask us to call neighbour kids to come to eat these dango.
In Japan, people see rabbits on moon crater. Otsukimi dango is for the moon and the rabbits live on the moon. When the displayed dango are eaten (stolen) by kids, it is considered as good luck pretending the rabbit came to eat dumpling. Meaning the appreciation is recognized by the moon.
Otsukimi dango on the stand, basket of seasonal fruits such as peach and grapes and vegetables like sweet potato and silver glass in the vase are displayed in the living room. We would sit down by the window to enjoy the viewing of the moon. I remember moment of quietness, slightly chilly air and feeling the summer is over and autumn is here.
Today I assume, there are fewer households that decorate with these Otsukimi displays. However, people still enjoy this mysterious moon of the year and celebrate in modern ways. For example, McDonald in Japan has Tsukimi Burger (with egg), Tukimi Pie (sticky rice cake and sweet red beans as filling in stead of apple) , Tsukimi shake (with soy powder) etc at which are only available during this time of the year.
Other people might enjoy Japanese traditional sweets: Wagashi which comes in to the shape of moon, rabbits and produce of autumn or Ttsukimi Udon or Tsukimi Don which come with row egg on top, pretending egg yolk as the moon and enjoying moon viewing in their meal.
Let’s taste Japan! : Easy Dango Recipe
Otsukimi dango has no flavour, but when you taste it you can enjoy it with some flavour.
* You can usually find following flours in Asian section of major grocery shops.
120g Glutenous Flour 80g Rice Flour
1. Mix all the ingredients
2. Make balls about 2.5 cm in diameter
3. Cook balls in boiling water about 3-4 minutes
Flavour 1: Mitarashi
1.5 TBS Soy Sauce 3 TBS Sugar 50cc Water 1 TS Potato starch
1. Mix soy sauce, sugar and water 2. Heat the mixture in low heat and dissolve sugar 3. Mix potato starch and little bit of water
4. Add 3 to the mixture and heat until thickened
Flavour 2: Kinako 2 TBS Soy Powder 2 TBS Sugar
1. Roast soy powder until light brown 2. Remove from the heat and mix with sugar
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