Tsukimi (月見) (月見)

Tsukimi is to enjoy viewing the moon, such as the full moon. It is also called Kangetsu.

In a limited sense, it implies Tsukimi on the nights of August 15 (the fifteenth night) and September 13 (the thirteenth night) of the lunar calendar (old calendar). August 15th of the old calendar is called "Chushu (中秋)," so it is also called "Chushu no Meigetsu (中秋の名月)." It is also occasionally referred to as "仲秋の名月," since August of the old calendar is right in the middle of fall (from July to September) and is called "仲秋," but "中秋" indicates August 15th of the old calendar and "仲秋" indicates the middle period when separating fall into three, so "中秋の名月" is the correct expression. See this reference table of August 15th (old calendar) for the corresponding date of the fifteenth night in the Gregorian calendar (new calendar).


Since ancient times, in August of the old calendar (around September in the newer Gregorian calendar), the air is dry and the moon is clearly seen, and it is not too cold even at night with lower humidity; this has been regarded as the best time of year for moon viewing. That night, an altar is set up in a place from which the moon is visible; it is decorated with Japanese pampas grass, and Tsukimi Dango dumplings, sato-imo (taro), edamame (green soybeans) or chestnuts are put out, and sake is offered, in which way people enjoy viewing the moon (moon-viewing dishes), such as in a Buddhist service for the full moon in order to pray for a good harvest. For this reason, it is also called Imo Meigetsu.

China has a similar custom, but they celebrate in a greater way than Japan as the Mid-Autumn Festival, and moon cakes are made and offered. It is said that the moon cakes were introduced to Japan and changed into Tsukimi Dango dumplings. The Republic of Korea also has the custom of moon viewing around this time, which is called Chuseok; it's the third-biggest festival next to the New Year and Lantern Festival as holidays from work to celebrate with families in one's hometown. Cakes called songpyeon are made.

The Thirteenth Night is an original Japanese custom, and the moon of the night is called Mame Meigetsu or Kuri Meigetsu, since beans (mame) and chestnuts (kuri) in season are offered. Viewing the moon on either the fifteenth night or the thirteenth night is called "katatsukimi (single moon-viewing)" or "katamitsuki (the moon of single viewing)," which has historically been less favorable. Therefore, in order to have the second date for sure, it is said that some people would invite someone of the opposite sex on the fifteenth night (the invited person must come to the thirteenth night as well).

Furthermore, some regions had a custom called moon-waiting, which is why the moon after the seventeenth night is called Tatemachi-zuki (moon-waiting in a standing position), Imachi-zuki (moon-waiting in a sitting position), Nemachi-zuki (moon-waiting in a lying position) and Fukemachi-zuki (moon-waiting late at night). Most regions would have the moon-waiting until the twenty-third night, but some had it until the twenty-sixth night, and people pursued pleasure until the moon rose (around two o'clock in the morning) on the excuse that three deities--Amida Buddha, Kannon Bodhisattva and Seishi Bodhisattva--would appear in the moonlight (from the Japanese dictionary "Kojien"). Apparently, this custom faded quickly in the Meiji period.

China and Japan have had the custom of appreciating the moon since ancient times, and particularly in Japan it is said that the custom has existed since the Jomon period; after the festival of moon viewing was introduced from China around the Heian period, the nobles had Kangetsu parties and boating parties (to enjoy the reflection of the moon swinging on the water surface from a boat, instead of viewing the moon directly) in which they would compose poems and enjoy drinking.

In Europe, it seems that the full moon was supposed to disturb and confuse people's minds; for example, the goddess of the moon indicates death, and a werewolf transforms himself by seeing the moon, so people did not want to view the moon at all. In Japan, "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" has a scene in which the old woman warns Lady Kaguya about seeing the moon, which implies that they had an idea similar to that of Europe before the custom of moon viewing was introduced from China.

Notable Sites for Tsukimi
Kudanzaka (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Prefecture)
Shinshu Obasute (Chikuma City, Nagano Prefecture)
Iga Ueno Castle (Iga City, Mie Prefecture)
Osawa Pond, Daikaku-ji Temple (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture)
Genkyuen (Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture)
Himeji Castle (Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Iwakuni Castle and Kikko Park (Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture)
Mangan-ji Temple (Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture)
Katsurahama (Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture)

Marco Polo Bridge (Beijing, People's Republic of China)
West Lake (Hanzou City, Zhe Jiang Province, China)

Works Related to Tsukimi
Classical Literature
"The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" - Legend of Lady Kaguya

Chinese Poetry
Kenshin UESUGI
"The Thirteenth Night" - The military camp is covered with frost on clear fall days; Geese are flying in rows in the evening; Now we've brought the mountains in Echigo and Ecchu together with Noto, and the view is wonderful; However, people in our hometown must be worrying about this expedition now.

"Sangetsu-ki," by Atsushi NAKAJIMA
"Stars and Festivals," by Yasushi INOUE

The full moon as seen from the Seta-gawa River is great, even though I saw the harvest moon twice this year. While I strolled around the pond viewing the great full moon, dawn broke. After appreciating the great full moon, I found no more beautiful face at the party. The great full moon reminds me of pretty children standing in the hall of a temple. The water rushes to the gate at high tide on the night of the great full moon. The weather is changeable in the northern districts around the time of the great full moon.
Santoka TANEDA
I'm in Tokyo now, viewing the moon, which makes me relax.

Author unknown
You can see the moon in many months, but the best month to see the moon is this month. (This has eight times the Chinese characters to mean the moon and also the month, which shows that 'this month' means August.)

Picture Books
"The Family of Fourteen and the Moon," by Kazuo IWAMURA; 1988, Doshinsha Publishing
"Sori's Harvest Moon Day," by Lee Uk-Bae; 2000, Sailor Publishing

"Izutsu," "Toru," "Obasute"

Tsukimi in Cuisine

Boiled soba (buckwheat noodles) and udon (wheat noodles) put in a bowl, and sometimes after putting nori (dried seaweed) to resemble gathering clouds, cracking a raw egg into it and adding soup and condiments, are called "Tsukimi soba" and "Tsukimi udon," respectively. This resembles the atmosphere of tsukimi in a bowl. Originally, nori was a must in Tsukimi noodles, and ones without it were called 'Gyoku' ('gyoku otoshi,' 'Gyoku iri' or 'Gyoku ochi'); but today, ones with just an egg but no nori are usually called Tsukimi.

Nabeyaki udon or Miso-nikomi udon also has a raw egg cracked into it in most cases, but it is not called Tsukimi, probably because the cooked yolk isn't readily visible.

In Kita Kyushu City there is a dish called Tenmado (skylight window), in which noodles such as yaki udon with an egg dropped into a dent are overturned and broiled. This resembles the picture of the moon from a skylight window, which is another version of Tsukimi noodles.

McDonald's has, since 1991, sold a 'Tsukimi burger' with an egg sunny-side up from September to October as a special fall menu item.

In Taiwan, as a shaved-ice item, they have '月見冰, yue jian bing' (Tsukimi ice).'
This is shaved ice having black syrup, condensed milk or dried fruits on top with a raw egg yolk cracked into a dent in the center. In Chinese, Tsukimi is usually expressed as '賞月 (viewing moon),' so '月見' is considered to be borrowed from Japanese.
(Chinese uses the verb-noun word order, so the word order as noun-verb such as '月見 (moon viewing)' is generally not used.)

[Original Japanese]