Tsukimi (moon-viewing) season is one of the most exciting times in Tokyo! It’s already a bustling city full of neon lights, amazing attractions, and awesome food! However, the moon-viewing season makes it even better! There’s so much food, stories, and many other things to enjoy! But what if you only had one night in Tokyo to enjoy it all?
Where are the moon-viewing events? What are the tsukimi foods to eat? And where did all these moon rabbits come from? Let’s find out!
Tsukimi (moon-viewing) is celebrated in mid-September (the eighth month of the lunar calendar), and comes from China’s Mid-Autumn Festival! During this time, the moon is at its fullest and roundest. In the past, aristocrats gathered together to view the moon, have picnics and hold poetry readings about how lovely the moon is!
The coolest part is that they also made offerings to the moon! You can expect a lot of homes to have big stacks of homemade tsukimi dango on their altar around this time! As a matter of fact, you can even see plastic dango decorations at the local stores! Everyone’s caught up in the tsukimi spirit when September comes around!
Over many years many people have taken the tsukimi season as an opportunity to make their own poetry and legend. There have been many works of art made about moon viewing parties, complete with taiko drumming. However, there is a tsukimi legend that has withstood the test of time–the “Rabbit on the Moon”!
The iconic tsukimi rabbit pounding mochi comes from a Japanese folktale called “The Old Man on the Moon”. Once upon a time, an old man had three animal friends: a monkey, a fox and a rabbit. He loved his friends dearly, but he wanted to put their kindness to the test.
One day, the old man disguised himself as a beggar, and asked his friends for help. The monkey climbed a tree to get him some fruit. The fox went fishing in the river. But the rabbit couldn’t climb, nor fish. Instead, the rabbit offered to sacrifice himself as food for the beggar!
The beggar was so touched by the rabbit’s kindness that he transformed back into the old man, and offered the rabbit to come live with him on the moon! Because of this, rabbits are heavily associated with the moon even today! Rabbit-shaped mochi are very popular around this time!
Many mascots and anime characters in Japan are also inspired by rabbits! Some of the most notable characters include Sanrio’s My Melody and Kuromi! But the most beloved character inspired by the Moon is–you guessed it–Sailor Moon! Her real name is Tsukino Usagi (月野うさぎ) which when read out loud literally means “rabbit on the moon”!
When you think of traditional foods of the season, tsukimi soba or tsukimi udon usually comes to mind. But what gives them that ‘tsukimi” flavor? The answer is simple: eggs! Sometimes dishes use raw egg, but most of them either be cooked sunny side up, or boiled. No matter the cooking method, the most important thing is to show off the yolk! This is because from Japan’s perspective, the moon is yellow instead of white!
As with most festival seasons, especially during hanami, Japanese fast food chains incorporate eggs in their meals. The most popular chains are KFC, Dominos, Lotteria and of course, McDonalds. Some of the dishes also incorporate mochi–most recently McDonald’s released an anko (red bean paste) and mochi pie!
Sometimes tsukimi fast food restaurants used fried eggs as well. This past year, KFC’s tsukimi lineup consisted of eggs and plenty of cheddar cheese. Plus their buns were nice and golden in homage to the moon as well! So while you’re enjoying tsukimi in the city, nothing beats stopping for a quick bite of some delicious food inspired by the moon!
Enjoying the tsukimi season in Tokyo is an amazing time to experience how Japanese people celebrate the moon in modern times! There are also plenty of events around the city as well, the most popular of which is in Shimo-Kitazawa!
Over there, they have moon-viewing art that anyone can enjoy. But no matter where you go in the city, as long as you have some rabbit mochi, fried eggs, and gratitude for the moon, you’re sure to have one awesome moon-viewing!
TokyoTreat just released a box that celebrated the tsukimi season. If you’d like to experience more, feel free to subscribe!
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