十五夜(じゅうごや)【Jugo-ya (the nigh of the full moon)】

When people used the lunar calendar, the night of the full moon fell on the fifteenth night of each month. The full moon nights were called jugo-ya, and the full moon seen on the fifteenth night of the eighth month was thought to be the most beautiful full moon of the year. The full moon at this time of year looks especially beautiful in the clear autumn night sky. This moon is specially called chushu-no-meigetsu, which literally means the mid-autumn full moon. People traditionally viewed and admired the moon on the fifteenth night of the eighth month in olden times. Even now, many people view and admire the full moon and make offerings to it every year on the night of the full moon in September. This custom is called tsukimi in Japanese. The mid-autumn full moon is also called the harvest moon because crops and fruits are harvested from farms at this time of the year. While viewing the moon, people feel thankful to the moon for the year’s harvest and give a feast in celebration of the harvest. In this sense, viewing the moon is a harvest festival. People also pray to the moon for a large rice crop as the rice harvest is just ahead. There is a custom of offering dumplings, which are called tsukimi-dango in Japanese, and newly harvested crops including taro to the moon on the tsukimi night. Dumplings and crops are usually decorated with silver grass, which is called susuki in Japanese, or Japanese bush clovers, which are called hagi in Japanese, and then offered to the moon. These offerings represent people’s gratitude and prayers to the moon for the crops of the year.

太陰暦の十五日の夜は満月の夜に当たり、十五夜と呼ばれていました。特に陰暦八月の十五夜の頃は秋になって空が澄みわたるため、月が一年で最も美しくなると考えられていました。八月十五夜の満月は「中秋(ちゅうしゅう)の名月(めいげつ)」と呼ばれ、古くからこの夜に月見をする習慣がありました。現在でも十五夜には、月に供え物をして満月を観賞します。この時期は畑作物や果物の収穫時期にも当たり、人々はその年の収穫を祝福し、月に感謝して、月見を行いました。月見には収穫祭の意味合いも含まれていたのです。月見はさらに、刈り入れを間近に控えた稲の豊作を願う行事でもあります。人々のこのような感謝と願いが、月見には月見団子や里芋(サトイモ)などの収穫物をススキや萩で飾り、月に供える習慣となったのです。

People of old also viewed the moon on the thirteenth night of the ninth month, according to the lunar calendar, in addition to the fifteenth night of the eighth month. The thirteenth night of the ninth month was called jusan-ya. People offered green soybeans and chestnuts to the moon on the jusan-ya.

十五夜のほかに、十三夜(じゅうさんや)にも月見をする習慣がありました。十三夜は陰暦の九月十三日に当たり、枝豆や栗を供えて月をまつりました。

One very ancient Japanese legend says that a rabbit pounds rice for rice cake on the moon when there is a full moon, and many people think of a rabbit when there is a full moon. The reasoning for this relationship is unknown, but it might have started with the custom of calling the full moon Mochi Tsuki. There is also another word in Japanese that sounds the same as Mochi Tsuki which means pounding rice for rice cakes. Then, children began to think that they saw a rabbit when they looked at the shape of the shadows of the craters on the moon. People might have thought that a rabbit were pounding rice on the moon between calling the full moon Mochi Tsuki and the children’s imagination.

日本には古くから満月の夜には月でうさぎが餅つきをするという言い伝えがあり、多くの人々が満月からうさぎを連想します。その理由は定かではありませんが、かつて満月を「望月(もちつき)」と呼んでいたことによるのかもしれません。そして子供たちは月のクレーターによってできる影の形をうさぎと思うようになりました。満月を望月と呼ぶ習慣と子供たちの想像が結びついて、月でうさぎが餅をつくという発想につながったのではないかと考えられています。

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