By NHK Educational
The Mark of Beauty : NHK Educational
【Moon Viewing】PrologueNHK Educational
Admiring the moon
Moon viewing is the practice of gazing at the moon and enjoying its sacred beauty. In particular, it refers to the viewing of the autumn moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the old lunar calendar (which falls between mid-September and early October by today’s calendar).
From Heian period aristocrats to the commoners of the Edo period, the Japanese have long admired the moon as a sort of sacred deity.
The full moon is considered particularly beautiful in mid-autumn, when the air is crisp and clear.
During the Heian period (794–1185), aristocrats would gather together in the evenings to admire the moon, recite poetry, and play instruments.
They would admire the reflection of the moon on the surface of ponds or on the surface of their cups of rice wine. The elegance of these aristocratic traditions are evident in the Kokinshu poetry anthology.
“Flowers, birds, wind, and moon” (kacho fugetsu) is a Japanese phrase expressing the natural beauty of the seasons. The inclusion of the moon in this phrase exemplifies the special appreciation of the Japanese for the aesthetics of this celestial orb.
Many works of art and literature grew out of admiration for the moon.
【Moon Viewing】OfferingsOriginal Source: Nishijin Tondaya
Japanese have always presented offerings for ritual viewings of the moon. With the moon itself as the object of worship, they would give thanks for a bountiful harvest and make offerings of their crops. The miscanthus grass served as a yorishiro—an earthly presence in which a divine spirit of the moon might temporarily reside.
The white cakes (dango) are a quintessential offering for moon viewings.
Made of rice flour, they are formed into balls that represent the shape of the moon.
The fifteenth night (of the eighth lunar month) is known as jugoya (fifteenth night), or alternatively as imo meigetsu (potato moon). This is because the moon was compared to a taro potato (satoimo), which is a round, white tuber with vigorously growing stalks. Sometimes these potatoes are offered instead of or alongside dango cakes during moon viewings. In the Kansai region, around Osaka and Kyoto, it was traditional to offer to the moon the first taro potatoes harvested that year. This tradition continues into the present day.
【Moon Viewing】Praying to the MoonOriginal Source: Nishijin Tondaya
“Hachigatsu Tsukimi no en” (The Eighth Month: A Moon Viewing Gathering), from the series Edo fuzoku juni ka getsu nouchi (The Customs of the Twelve Months in Edo) National Diet Library Digital Collections by Yoshu ChikanobuOriginal Source: National Diet Library Digital Collections
Under an autumn full moon, the time passes luxuriously and elegantly.
© tamayura39 – Fotolia
National Diet Library Digital Collections
© sasazawa – Fotolia
© promolink – Fotolia
Photography by Tadayuki Minamoto
Music by Ryu (Ryu Matsuyama)
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum
Produced by NHK Educational Corporation