Japanese Culture – Choyo-no-Sekku and Tsukimi

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In Japan, there are five days called Sekku: 1/7, 3/3, 5/5, 7/7 and 9/9. When expressed numerically, all dates are odd numbers, which have been considered lucky since ancient times in Japan. Of these, September 9 is called Choyo-no-Sekku, which is the “Kiku (Chrysanthemum)-no-Sekku”. Compared to the other four festivals, the Choyo-no-Sekku is generally unfamiliar in modern Japan, but at shrines and temples chrysanthemums festivals are held.

Sekku is written in Japanese with 2 characters “setsu,” which means “divide” or “division,” and “ku.” In recent history, on Sekku people display dolls and eat certain foods in the hopes of a good harvest and healthy living, hoping that children and grandchildren will live well. However, in the Edo era, about 300 years ago, Choyo-no-Sekku was the grandest event to conclude Five Sekku.

During Choyo-no-Sekku, there is a custom of eating chestnut rice, autumn eggplant, edible chrysanthemum, etc. and wishing for good health. It is also customary to drink chrysanthemum sake – sake with floating chrysanthemum petals in it.

In Japan, watching the moon in the fall is called Tsukimi (moon watching.) It is especially suitable for viewing the moon on a full moon night. Above all, the full moon that appears on August 15 of the lunar calendar is called Full Moon of Mid-Autumn, and many people still enjoy watching the moon on this day. This night is called Jyugo-ya (the night of the 15th).

People offer something dedicated to God when enjoying Tsukimi. Osonae, or the offering to God, includes plows and round shaped dumplings, called Tsukimi Dango, to resemble the round shape of the full moon. The enjoyment of Tsukimi for children is to eat Tsukimi Dango.

In the old days, Japanese people enjoyed watching the moon, imagining that there were rabbits on the moon that were pounding mochi. Of course, we now know that there are no rabbits on the moon to make mochi, but we can still let our imagination run away!

The 2020 day of the Full Moon of Mid-Autumn will be October 1 on the Gregorian calendar.