Monday, September 8, 2014
Forgive me if I seem to be hyperbolising, but I'm going to go ahead and say that I had one of the most magical experiences of my life last night. So in Japan and China the full moon in September, or harvest moon, is celebrated as the Mid Autumn Moon Festival, and more specifically- in Japanese culture the act of moon gazing, or moon appreciating is called Tsukimi. It dates way back to the Edo period and probably even before. You can read about it in Tales of Genji, ancient poems, and see scenes in Japanese woodblock prints. On full moons, people would gather together in the moonlight and stay up all night playing and listening to music played on koto and shamisen, reciting poetry about the moon to each other, and eating food reminiscent of the full moon.
I had read about these tsukimi parties in college, and I had grown up loving woodblock prints and their beautiful scenes, and watching Pokemon, which shows the occasianal cultural festival from time to time, and it all really stuck with me. It's been a dream of mine to attend a traditional festival wearing a yukata. I knew the full moon was coming up soon and that there should be some sort of festivities going on in Tokyo ( even the mcdonalds here has a seasonal 'tsukimi burger' which has a fried egg on top to look like a 'moon) but I was worried that the city's light pollution would flood out the moonlight, and it would be hard to find a more traditional, rustic setting in this huge city, which is what I had my heart set on based on this ideal I had been carrying around born out of various media. I feel so so lucky that with a little searching online I was able to find an edo period style festival to attend the night of the full moon right here in this booming metropolis. We took a smallish train out to Higashimukoujima, a northeast suburb, around dusk and walked through a charming smaller-scale neighborhood with lanterns lighting the streets until we rounded a corner into a beautiful garden park filled with painted lanterns, a pond, and winding pathways. There was live traditional music wafting through the whole space. It was like straight out of a dream. I felt like Samwise in Rivendell the whole time.
I am so(oooo) pumped about finding this yukata. I really wanted to find one before the festival, and we stumbled upon this great second hand shop in Harajuku on Saturday night that had a whole yukata/kimono section in the back. I was nervous about the price range, but these were really amazing deals- vintage yukatas usually go for around $80-$150 at flea markets and online, and I got my yukata and obi for $40 total. As I'm sure you're aware, I'm very idealist, and am choosy about a lot of things, especially what I wear, and I live for vintage at good deals.
I really wanted a pretty vintage print that was more on the simple side, in a color that suited me, and I cannot believe how lucky I got that this gem was sitting there waiting for me. Although red isn't usually my favorite colour, it is undeniably one of 'my' colours (I'm an Autumn complexion) and rust-red specifically does usually appeal to me quite a bit. As soon as I tried it on I got chills at how perfect it was for what I was looking for, and I was so excited to find this mustard toned obi to go with it. It was the perfect length, the perfect fit, the perfect colour and print, and the price felt too good to be true. I even had a gold leaf pin I put in my hair for Autumn and the colours all went so well together. I felt so excited to be wearing it all as we entered the garden and the ambiance unfolded before me. It really felt like walking through an old painting.
Some of the fun things we ate:
Tsukimi Dango- a fat, round white sphere of mochi stuffed with red beans. It looks just like a full moon, and they put a pile on an altar with a vase of tall grass as an offering to the moon for a good harvest.
Usagi Manjuu bunny treats! these are my favourite, obvi for their kawaiiness. These are a steamed bun of sorts, shaped like a bunny and also filled with red bean. Rabbits are a significant part of tsukimi because in Japan they think the dark craters in the moon look like a rabbit pounding mochi. the story goes that that man in the moon came down to earth to choose the kindest animal and reward him. Every animal gave him a different gift, but the rabbit, who had nothing to give, boiled some water and offered himself for the man to eat. The man chose him as the kindest and brought him back to the moon to live with him.
Also, Oden, a soup filled with various types and shapes of fishcakes.
Posted by Kitsune-kun at 7:50 PM