Jūgoya (directly translated as "fifteen night") originated from the old lunar calendar on the fifteenth night of the eighth month and is on the night of a full moon. The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon phrases, and the full moon is the easiest to mark the cycle. The eighth month is considered to be the best time to gaze at the full moon because of the clear air which makes the moon seem brighter. The moon is called "Chūshū no Meigetsu (Mid-Autumn Moon).” The court nobles during the Heian period (794-1185) held festivals to gaze at the moon. Today, the moon viewing custom is held somewhere between late September to early October. The moon on this night is also called "imo meigetsu (taro moon)," for the reason being, people serve tsukimi dango (moon viewing dumplings) and newly harvested taro roots with susuki (Japanese silver grass) decorations.
The tip of the silver grass is so sharp that one can easily cut themselves by just touching it; the sharpness of the grass became a symbol to ward off the bad spirits. People also considered it to be a good omen if the offerings to the moon were taken by children. Also on the night of Jūgoya, people were allowed to steal a handful of crops from the farms. It was considered a blessing to have the crops taken by the spirits visiting during the night.
十五夜の風景 / A scene of Jūgoya
ススキ / Japanese silver grass
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Rabbits have a close relationship with people through examples such as folk tales and geographic names. One of the most well-known myth is about a rabbit that lives on the moon. This belief originated from the Buddhist Jataka tales and retold in folk collection titled Konjaku monogatari shū (Tales of Times Past), compiled in the late Heian period (794 to 1185).
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Once upon a time, there were three animals, a hare, a fox and a monkey living together in India practicing the Way of the bodhisattva. The three believed that they were born as lowly animals because their previous existences were sinful, and thus they vowed to always avoid self-centeredness.
Observing the three animal’s good deeds, the heavenly deity, Taishakuten, wanted to test them for his trust if the three animals have truly good hearts. Taishakuten transformed himself into an old man suffering from hunger and fatigue and appeared in front of the animals and asked for some food. In an instant, the monkey climbed trees to collect nuts, fruits and vegetables and prepared the food as the old man liked. The fox went to the graveyard to collect the offerings of rice and fish. Taishakuten ate until he was full and deemed the monkey and the fox as true bodhisattvas.
However, no matter how hard the hare tried, he found no food. The monkey, fox and even the old man laughed at the hare. The hare thought about going to the mountains and villages to get some food for the old man but was afraid of the beasts and humans that might eat him. And thought his life would be more worthwhile if he gave his own body to the old man to eat.
The hare ordered the monkey and the fox to build a fire for he told them he will bring back something delicious for the old man this time. Soon, the rabbit returned with nothing in his hands and the two animals became angry. The rabbit replied, “I am not able to find food. So please, old man, roast and eat my body!” The rabbit jumped into that fire and burned to death.
In an instance, the old man transformed back into himself as the Taishakuten and relocated the hare’s body to the moon to be seen and remember by everyone. The pattern on the moon are the smoke of the fire the rabbit died.
Jūgoya is celebrated with wagashi, traditional Japanese confectioneries, called “tsukimi dango” or “full moon dumplings.” In stores, there are also sweets that are inspired by the full moon either in shape or in traditions.
月見団子 / Tsukimi dango
ウサギの和菓子 / Wagashi inspired by the rabbit
十五夜お月さん ごきげんさん (Jūgoya otsuki-san Gokigensan)
婆やは お暇（いとま）取りました (Bāya wa Itoma torimashita)
十五夜お月さん 妹は (Jūgoya otsuki-san Imōto wa)
田舎へ貰（も）られて 行きました (Inaka he morarete Ikimashita)
十五夜お月さん 母（かか）さんに (Jūgoya otsuki-san Kaka-san ni)
も一度私は 会いたいな (Mo ichido watashi wa Aitaina)
Mr. Moon on Jūgoya night, how are you?
Grandma took a break
Mr. Moon on Jūgoya night, my sister
Was taken to the countryside
Mr. Moon on Jūgoya night, I just want to
See Mom again