There are Rabits on the Moon!? ~Why Japanese do “Moon Viewing”~

仏教(ぶっきょう): Buddhism

Japanese article is here;

Hello, this is MIKA!

It’s a bit early to say, but 29th September is the day of “Moon Viewing” in Japan.

“Moon Viewing” is to watch “The hervest moon”, “The full moon of the middle autumn” on 15th August of the old(lunar) calendar which is said it’s the most beautiful full moon.

“The middle autumn” means the center of autumn for 3 mounth;July, August, and September of the old calendar.

Then, because it’s the night of 15th August of old calendar, the moon also called “Juugo-ya night’s moon”.

The custom to watch “The hervest moon” has come from China, and it has spread in Heian era(A.C. 794~1185/1192) in Japan.

However, we don’t watch it just because it’s beautiful!

Additionally, we think there are some rabits and they make a rice cake!!

So, why do we “Moon Viewing”? And why do rabits make a rice cake on the moon?

This time, Let’s solve the mystery of “Moon Viewing” and raibits on the moon!

About “Moon Viewing”

The history of “Moon Viewing”

At first, “Moon Viewing” in Heian era had been for the nobility.

They enjoyed it by playing musical instruments, composing Japanese poems, and drinking with elegance.

It’s the Edo era(1603~1868) that the custom has spread to commons. At this time, that custom would had been the event to thank for “Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto”, one of Japanese Gods of the moon and a hervest because it’s the season of a hervest.

*About “Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto”, please read this article.

And then, they started to offer many things to tell the mind of thanks.

The offering things for “Moon Viewing”

“Tsukimi-dango”, the dumpling of rice for “Moon Viewing”

Firstly, I’ll introduce you “Tsukimi-dango”, it’s a synonym for “Moon Viewing”.

The reason why we make a dumpling is its shape is spherical and it looks like a full moon.

Take it after offering to the moon, we can receive the holy power of the health and hapiness by “Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto”.

Japanese pampas grass

Strictly speaking, we should offer ears of rice plant, but that season is too early to reap them, that’s why we offer Japanese pampas grass in place of them because it looks like a ear of rice plant.

However, Japanese pampas grasses have the power to protect us against evil, and we pin our hope for the next year’s good hervest on them.

The hervests

We have so many hervests of autumn!!

Potatos, Japanese chestnuts, mushrooms, pears, grapes…and rice, which we must not forget!

We offer such vegetables and fruits to thank the hervest.

“The hervest moon” has another name; it’s “Imo-meigetsu”, because we can get many potatos(Imo in Japanese) especially around “Juugo-ya” season.

Why do some rabits make a rice cake?

Next, I’ll tell you about the mystery why some rabits make a rice cake.

Before that…in your country, how do you see the figure of moon’s crater?

A profile of woman, a crab and something, it’s different as each countries and areas. In China, people find the rabits are making the elixir of life, but we find they are making a rice cake.

In fact, the legend by Buddhism is related to the reason.

The legend of the rabit in Buddhism

A long long ago, in India, a hungry old man was lying.

A monkey, a fox, and a rabit found him and the monkey gave him a japanese persimmon, the fox gave him a fish. However, only the rabit couldn’t find foods with any efforts.

One day, the rabit said him “Eat me.” and finally dived into bonfire by him/her self.

Actually, the old man was “Shakra”, one of Gods of Buddhism. Shakura was deeply moved by the rabit’s mind and action, and draw the figure of the rabit on the moon to tell this occurrence for the future generations. This is the rabit’s mythology of Buddhism, one of “Jataka tales”.

*”Jataka tales” is the story of Buddha’s previous life.

Why do rabits make a rice cake, not a medicine?


*「漢方薬(Kampou-yaku)」is the ancient style Chinese medicine.

This legend has come to Japan from India through China, of course it’s known in China. But Chinese people believe “Rabits on the moon is making a medicine”. Why?

The reason is that rabits have worked as the vassal of “Queen Mother of the West”, one of the ancient Chinese Gods which had the elixir of life. Because that mythology and the rabit’s legend in “Jataka tales” were combined, they think “Rabits are making a medicine on the moon”.

By the way, why Japanese people think “Rabits are making a rice cake on the moon”?

There are some opinions;

  1. They have been making it for “Shakra” even now
  2. Not to suffer from lack of food
  3. “Mochi-duki”, another name of “Man-getsu”; the full moon in Japanese is the reason (Because “Mochi” is a rice cake in Japanese)

…and so on.

Final comment

How was it?

Because the old calendar is the basis, the day of “The hervest moon” is defferent every year. Anyway, remember that the day of the full moon in September is the day of “Moon Viewing”!

In addition, we think it’s lucky to watch not only the moon of “Juugo(15)-ya” but also the moon called “Juusan(13)-ya”; it’s the night of 13th September of the old calendar. The moon of “Juusan-ya” is a bit waning, because Japanese think “An imperfect thing is beautiful” as a beauty sense.

This year’s “Juugo-ya” and “Juusan-ya” have already finished, so please enjoy “Moon Viewing” next year!

P.S. The origin of the name “Usagi Tsukino”, the main character of “Sailor Moon”, is this thinking; Rabits are making a rice cake on the moon. “Usagi” is a rabit, “Tsuki-no” means “of the moon” in Japanese.