Sunday, October 4, 2009

By the Light of the Otsukimi Moon

I always used to get this mixed up when I was a kid. I always thought that the Harvest moon was the big full moon that’s always seen in the month of October. What I later found out is that tradition dictates that the harvest moon is actually the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. This year it happened to fall on October 3rd.

The great thing about this is that even after the sun is down and it’s starting to get dark, as long as it’s not too cloudy, there is still enough light reflected off the moon to allow folks to see things a little more clearly. This is especially important in the land of the Habu. In the old days before electric lighting, it gave farmers the extra light they needed to work later into the evening and bring in the harvest without getting snake bit.

Okinawa has a tradition associated with the harvest moon called Otsukimi. According to the lunar or Chinese calendar it is always falls on August 15th which places it in September or early October according to the Gregorian calendar. For many people, myself included, the words Okinawa, August and moon always conjures up images of Marlon Brando building a tea house and pretending to be Japanese but, that’s another story.

The August moon on Okinawa also marks the end of the summer’s sweltering heat. From this point on, the weather starts to cool off and the fall season tends to be drier and much more comfortable. If you ask me, that alone is reason enough to celebrate. Most people will plan an outdoor get together of some sort and have a party with family, friends and even co-workers. They’ll gather at a favorite place, bring traditional foods and celebrate under the illumination of the moonlight.

Popular places on Okinawa to have an Otsukimi or moon viewing party include beaches, parks, hill tops, and roof tops or anywhere that offers a clear view of the moon. If you really want to party, There’s always a big shindig at Shuri Castle in Naha and Manzamo in Onna village is also a popular site to watch the moon, drink mass quantities of adult beverages and recite poetry.

What that really means is sometimes even viewing the moon is optional. Just the excuse and opportunity to gather and have fun is all that’s needed. For the people of Okinawa, as if they needed one, the August moon is a reason to celebrate. One thing I learned about living in Okinawa is the folks here really love a good party.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post. Did the Kin Moon Fest last night and probably spend all week developing the photos. Typhoon shouldn't phase me a bit !


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