Our annual Harvest Moon arrives on September 9 this year. Further, it will be a “Super” Harvest Moon. And in Japan, people will be celebrating Tsukimi. While researching ideas for this post I discovered some written correspondence dated 1992. The inset above shows part of that, along with a great photo of the Harvest Moon.
I was teaching physics in 1992. I also moderated the Astronomy Club. A colleague, who taught Japanese, had shared some cultural insights about the Harvest Moon. Her name was Hisae (last name now lost in the haze of time). She didn’t know much about astronomy, but knew about Tsukimi, and offered to do some additional research. What she found was in the book Nippon: The Land and its People, published by Nippon Steel Human Resource Development. As you can see, Hisae drew the Kanji symbols for Tsukimi using a nice calligraphic script.
She went on to explain a mythology often related to children. On the Moon, there rabbits live. They pound Mochi (a type of rice cake) to celebrate Tsukimi. She added that Autumn is a very important season in Japan because it is the harvest time for rice. In Japan, Moon gazing is a social and cultural activity.
Excerpted from Wiki: Tsukimi (月見) or literally “moon-viewing,” refers to Japanese festivals honoring the Autumn moon. The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese solar calendar. This day falls in what is “normally” September.
Festivals take place all around the country, many in private backyards. Participants set up comfortable seating with an unobstructed view for moonrise in the east. A view over water is favored, but not required. Food and drink are provided to honor the harvest, but the main attraction is the Harvest Moon.
Why don’t we do Tsukimi in other countries? All cultures see the same sky, and have their own celestial mythologies, but Tsukimi (to my knowledge) is unique. I propose that, this September 9, wherever you are on this planet, you take some time to celebrate the Harvest Moon. Sunset will be followed by moonrise around 7:00 pm local time, but check here for more accurate timing. And remember — this time of year the Moon rises almost exactly in the east.
By the way … I have to note that this is Sky Lights #300 (not counting before the online era). I’m pleased to continue offering this resource ad-free for my readers, and (mostly) copyright-free for educators. I appreciate your continued support, enjoy hearing your questions, and hope I’ve made science a little more interesting and understandable.
Next Week in Sky Lights ⇒ Harvest Moon Rising