The Japanese Otsukimi Festival, literally meaning “moon-viewing”, celebrates the Harvest Moon that typically falls on the 5th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese calendar. In 2017, Otsukimi falls on Wednesday, October 4th. It is said that the Otsukimi moon-viewing custom was first introduced to Japan by China, during the Heian period.
The celebration is culturally important across East and South-East Asia, where festivities often include outdoor evening picnics, seasonal cuisine, and giving thanks for the bountiful harvest of the year. In Japan, the most important imagery and objects associated with Otsukimi are rice dumplings called Tsukimi-dango, Japanese pampas grass called susuki, various types of farm crops, and, of course, the full moon!
This year, the Crow Collection of Asian Art and the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth will be hosting the Otsukimi Moon Viewing Celebration at Klyde Warren Park on Tuesday, October 3rd. Festival-goers can enjoy an outdoor picnic and various events and activities that promote Japanese art and culture!
Pre-order your bento box made by Niwa Japanese BBQ and Monkey King Noodle Company. Cut off is Sunday, October 1, 2017. No substitutions available.
Do you know why rabbits are associated with Otsukimi?
Similar to how in America we often point out “The Man in the Moon” when we look at the full moon at night, the Japanese and various other Asian cultures see the “Moon Rabbit” 月の兎! The Japanese believe that the Moon Rabbit is pounding rice into a paste that will be made into mochi rice cakes. Ancient Buddhist folklore tells of a virtuous rabbit that gave its life to feed a Buddhist deity disguised as a poor, elderly man. Touched by the rabbit’s selflessness, the deity drew the rabbit’s shape into the surface of the moon where it remains to this day. The tale is said to have given rise to Harvest Moon festivals across Asia. The next time there is a full moon, look into the night sky and see if you can find the Moon Rabbit making mochi!
Fun Fact: Did you know that in Native American and Indigenous Central and South American Folklore, there are also many different stories of the Moon Rabbit!
If you want to try making your own Tsukimi-dango to enjoy this year during Otsukimi, this recipe from Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace is easy and fun to try with friends and family!
You can eat your Tsukimi-dango without toppings or try them with adzuki paste (sweet red beans), kinako (toasted soybean flour), or sweet soy sauce that can all be purchased at Mitsuwa.
Challenge: Make fifteen dumplings and try to stack them in a pyramid shape to create a traditional Otsukimi presentation!