2006/08/09

Growing On The August Moon

August is a special month to me. Beside the fine weather, it is the month of my mother's birth as well as that of my granddaughter.

It is also a great time to enjoy looking up. Viewing the evening sky when I was growing up, we would look for "the man in the moon". Moon viewing, "tsukimi" in Japan, has been popular in Japan for centuries, and the royal palaces which K and I visited in Kyoto as well as Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture (subjects of future posts) all had moon viewing platforms or rooms for holding parties or writing poetry inspired by the moon.

Many of Japan's tales in folklore are adaptations of older Chinese stories and beliefs. The viewing of the moon and various celebrations of it arrived in Japan and were practiced by the aristocracy over one thousand years ago during the Heian period.

About four hundred years ago, at the beginning of the Edo period, Samurai would offer rice cakes to the moon on August 15 (mid September of the new style calendar) of the year that a child reached the age of 16. A hole would be made in the rice cake, through which the child would view the moon. As with many Samuri traditions, in was copied by the rest of society and became popular.

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In Japan, children look for the Rabbit in moon, which is supposed to be up there pounding rice cakes. There is also a legend that a giant katsura tree grows up there. The months of the year here are simply referred to by numbers one to twelve, but there are names for the months from the lunar calendar which was used before the new style calendar was adopted in 1873. Sometimes these older names are used in speeches or letters to convey a feeling of the season.

August is called "hazuki" which means "leaves". One interpretation is that it refers to the leaves turning and falling. But it seems a bit early in the year for that. When we were up in the Japanese Alps, the leaves only started to turn in the begining of September, and later than that at lower altitudes. So I prefer the other meaning which is that hazuki refers to the leaves of the giant katsura tree on the moon which is viewed at this time.

Today is rainy as off shore the typhoon 'Maria' is blowing past us paralleling the coast of Honshu as moves northeast, but the preceeding days have offered beautiful skies and the moonrise pictured above.

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When taking this picture, I couldn't help but think of my friend FH2O - that kayaking architect in Sarawak, who usually has his head in the clouds when he's not on the water.

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I don't know if it was the long rainy season, or the hot weather after, but it looks like there will be plenty of rice this year for the rabbit on the moon to pound into cakes.

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Beneath the sun and moon, a neighbor's tigerlilly is determined not to have its beauty go unoticed.

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In one last display before the typhoon comes, nature paints a breathtaking scene across the canvas of the sky.

Clouds come from time to time -
and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.

-Basho (1644-94)

12 comments:

nzm said...

How interesting! That's such cool tradition. Is the hole in the rice-cake still done today?

The Arabs are also lunar driven. Their calendar is based upon the lunar cycles, and the beginning and end of Ramadan (in October and a month of fasting during the day and a time of reflection) is governed by the sighting of the new moon. Of course, because of this, there's always no set time, and one minute it's not Ramadan, and the next it is!

Some of the best people in the world are born in August and I'm one of them! lol

Pandabonium said...

Happy Birthday, NZM - which ever day that may be.

Lrong said...

ah, tsukimi... the moon is getting full these days eh... nice to peep...

Robin said...

August in Asia is HAZE.

Somehow, forest fires burn wild in Indonesia and we all have to enjoy the haze.

I dun like August for that reason.

But Aug 9 is Singapore's National Day.

Happysurfer said...

And August 31 is Malaysia's National Day.

And the fires are still burning in Sumatra. We can smell smoke on some hazy days. Apparently, this open-burning has been going on for ages. It's their way of clearing the fields for the new planting season. The west coast states are getting the brunt of it, unfortunately.

PinkPanther said...

PandaB:
Speaking of Moon, Don't miss out on this greatest opportunity.

Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August.It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.This will cultimate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Pandabonium said...

NZM - I don't know of anyone doing the hole thing anymore. Interesting about Ramadan, thanks for the info. I guess all agrarian societies follow the moon.

Lrong - be sure you only peep at the moon! hehehe

Robin - that really needs to stop. Happy Singapore day or whatever.

Happy - Happy Malaysia day or whatever.

Oh, PinkPanther, I've been getting emails about that, but I'm sorry to say it isn't true. The close encounter with Mars happend in 2003 and while it was the brightest object in the night sky (after the moon of course) it did not appear much bigger than it usually does. It is very far away. I'm afraid that story is making the rounds on the good ol' internet as an kind of urban legend.

FH2O said...

My 2 youngest (boy & girl) are also borned in August, exactly one week apart; and I'm well reminded on what they would like ... I wished they believed in rabbit stories rather than my wallet being the source of their happiness!

I'm kinda honoured that pretty skies/clouds give rise to thoughts of me and my preoccupation with them. Thanks!

bonnie said...

One of the things I loved about growing up in Hawaii -

you see the man in the moon - you also learn to see the rabbit - and Hina, too.

I still see all 3 when I look up on a full-moon night.

Pandabonium said...

FH2O- well, you're "the man" when it comes to cloud pictures.

Bonnie - thanks for the link to the story of Hina!

bonnie said...

You're welcome. Or perhaps I should say, "Yo, fuggedaboudit!".

I liked the kid's drawings on that one!

I wonder how many photos of beautiful skies over how many different countries have now been shared on-line with a link to FH20.

hope's hopes said...

Hi,

You have a wonderful way of linking your imagination with writing. I truly enjoyed your post on August Moon.
Its snowing at this part of the world and I really wish to see the moon tonight. I work for R Martin LLC which is a vehicles'firm dealing in electric bikes, mopeds and scooters.

Hope