Patterns on the Moon

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Hello. My name is Marika, and I’m an international undergraduate student from Japan. Each week, I will write a column sharing aspects of my Japanese culture. For each column, I will focus on an example of either Japanese foods or celebrations in order to share a part of “real Japan.”

Today, I will be discussing a Japanese tradition that takes place in the month of October. Each country has their own seasonal rituals and events. As an example, I recently enjoyed Thanksgiving Day for the first time, a holiday that is not celebrated in Japan.

In Japan, we celebrate Tsukimi or Otsukimi, a festival honouring the autumn moon. The first day that we are able to see the full moon, we celebrate with seasonal dishes and moon-viewing parties.

Although it isn’t as highly celebrated nowadays as it was in the past, we still watch the full moon and eat “Tsukimi dango,” which is a type of rice cake. “Dango” is molded into a small round-shaped ball and pierced with a bamboo skewer.

In Japanese folklore, the patterns on the surface of the moon resemble a rabbit pounding steamed rice into cake-like dough, and there are even folk tales about how to rabbit got to the moon. There must be cultural differences in recognizing the patterns on the moon, so what do you see?