Moon viewing (Tsukimi) or Harvest moon festival is a Japanese festival to honor the autumn moon. This event was said to have started in Japan during the Heian era (794 to 1185) and is a custom which originated from Japanese aristocrats but later became popular and is now a celebration for everyone!
This is a Japanese version of the Mid-Autumn festival celebrated by the Chinese, Vietnamese and other countries that follow the lunar calendar. So, are you visiting Osaka this autumn? If so, don’t miss this spectacular, once-a-year moon viewing event held in two spots in Osaka Prefecture.
Mozu Hachimangu Shrine is located in Sakai City, Osaka. If you plan to visit this Shrine in mid-October, you will have the chance to watch and experience the moon viewing festival which will be held on October 7 and October 8, 2017.
This event is also called the Futon Daiko Festival, as the large portable shrine (Futon Daiko) will be paraded from the Sakai City streets to the grounds of the shrine. This massive portable shrine is about 4 meters high and is carried by up to 70 men! This event is held annually during the autumn to pray for a good harvest.
How to get there
By train, the Mozu Hachimangu Shrine can be accessed via JR Hanwa line, Nankai Koya line and Midosuji line. If you are coming from Namba in Osaka City, you can take the Nankai Koya line bound for Izumi-Chuo or Kawachi-Nagano and get off at Mozuhachiman Station. From there, it will be a 12-15 minute walk to the shrine.
If you are taking the Midosuji line, you can get off at Nakamozu Station and then walk for 15 – 20 minutes to reach the shrine. From the JR Hanwa Line, take the train bound for Hineno and get off at Mozu Station. From there, it will take you about 9-12 minutes depending on your pace.
Sumiyoshi Taisha, also called Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, is one of the most famous shrines in Osaka City. This Shrine is the home of the ‘three gods’ that have been long worshiped by Japanese people, sea travelers and celebrated in traditional Japanese 31-syllable poetry (waka). This Shrine is also a place where different festivals are celebrated throughout the year, and this includes the moon viewing festival.
This year, moon viewing festivities will be held on October 4, 2017. During the event, a Shinto priest will recite selected poems from places all over Japan, on an arched bridged inside the shrine. Traditional songs and dances will also take place on the top of the bridge.
The event will start at 6 pm and will continue until 8:30 pm. Lots of people gather at the entrance of the shrine to the arched bridge to witness this festival, so if you want a really good spot to watch the entire event, you should arrive there as early as possible.
How to get there
By train, Sumiyoshi Taisha can be accessed from the Hankaidenki-Uemachi line and the Nankai line. If you are taking the Hankaidenki-Uemachi line, get off at Sumiyoshitorii-Mae or at Sumiyoshi Station and walk for about a minute or two to get to the shrine.
From the Nankai line, get off at Sumiyoshitaisha Station and walk for 2-3 minutes to get to the Shrine. You can also take the Nankai-Koya line and get off at Sumiyoshi Higashi Station, and walk for about 10-12 minutes to get to the shrine.
Each seasonal festival in Japan has special and traditional dishes which are specially prepared and served during the event. They are also served as an offering to the gods for a good harvest for the next year or season. Here are some of the delicious seasonal dishes that are enjoyed during the moon viewing festival:
Dango is a traditional Japanese food made from glutinous rice and often sold on a skewer with glazed sauce or sprinkled with nori or sweet bean paste. However, the Tsukimi Dango is served plain, arranged and carefully piled in a small pyramid on an altar with special pampas grass as a decoration next to it and other food offerings.
While some cultures have celebrated old legends that there’s a man on the moon, Japanese legend says that there is a bunny making mochi living on the moon. This is the image they can see by looking at the moons shadow or the moon’s darkest angles. It’s the reason why bunnies have always been associated with the celebration of the Tsukimi or Moon viewing. During the event, you will see cute bunny-shaped mochi being served as a food offering!
Taro and Sweet potatoes
In some parts of Japan, Tsukimi is also known as Imomeigetsu or potato harvest moon. ‘Imo’ is the Japanese word for a root crop. Since taro and other root crops are harvested during the autumn season, they are one of the foods being served during Tsukimi as a thanksgiving offering.
Tsukimi Soba and Tsukimi Udon
Soba and Udon are two common Japanese staple foods. These delicious traditional dishes can be enjoyed anytime and can be easily found in restaurants in Japan. During Tsukimi festival, families serve udon and soba noodle soups with eggs floating on top which resembles a full moon.
As summer will soon be ending and autumn season is approaching us, you may have assumed that many festivals in Japan were already over. However, if you missed the summer festivals, it’s not too late to experience Japan’s cultural traditions and join in some of its autumn festivals!
Aside from the traditional and religious activities, there are also food stalls (Yatai) where you can enjoy Japanese street food to fill your tummy. If you love the beauty of the full moon, you can really appreciate it by visiting these two moon viewing events in Osaka in 2017!