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執筆 上野陽子
2014/9 Up

第73回 9月の名月を眺めてみよう!
Vol. 73 Let's look at the beautiful September moon!

Who are the moonlight-viewing thieves?


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Why is the moon in mid-autumn so beautiful?

The full moon in the middle autumnal month of the old lunar calender, called chushu no meigetsu or juugoya otsukisama, is considered particularly beautiful, as the crisper, bracing air comes along and the heat of summer subsides. However, we don't always we have a full moon in the middle of that month, because the moon doesn't move in sync with the calendar. The full moon falls on different dates from year to year, and this year's juugoya will be September 8, while it'll be September 23 next year.


Another name for chushu no meigetsu is imo meigetsu

Moonlight viewing is not only an elegant thing to do, but people have also traditionally believed in the mysterious power of the moon and have worshiped it since ancient times. There is a custom of making offerings to the moon, such as otsukimi dango (rice cakes with sweet beans inside) and susuki (Japanese silver grass). The number of dango used could be 12 or 13, depending on the number of full moons in the year, or 15 in line with juugoya, the 15th night.

The night of the full moon night has a thanksgiving aspect to it as well. The offering could consist of the Asian potato, taro and other tubers, so it is also called imo meigetsu, "potato moon night." Offering fruit and vegetables other than tubers is common too. People display their offerings where you can see the moon or in an alcove.



You can "steal" some otsukimi dango if you are a kid

Let's take a look at how to display these offerings. Since ancient times, Japanese have considered that the left side is of higher rank than the right, so it would be better to place the harvest, such as fruit and vegetables, on the left and items such as dango, on the right. In some regions, kids follow the traditional practice of "stealing" those offerings using a long stick with a hook on the end. Children are considered to be envoys from the moon and they are allowed to do so only on juugoya night. Each home tries to display offerings that can be "stolen" easily.



In some regions, children traditionally "steal" offerings, using a long stick with a hook on the end.

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