Tsukimi (月見, "moon viewing"), also known as otsukimi (お月見), or jūgoya (十五夜, "15th night"), is a festival celebrating the harvest moon and the Japanese equivalent of the Chinese moon festival. The full moon festivities usually occur on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese lunar calendar; the waxing moon is celebrated on the 13th day of the ninth month. In the modern solar calendar, these days usually fall in September or October. The tradition dates back to the Heian period. It is still popular in modern Japan, celebrated in schools and nurseries, and by consuming special tsukimi dishes.

12 Months of Beauties - Moon Viewing

Toyokuni III (豊国三代), 12 Months of Beauties-Moon Viewing (美人合十二月ノ内 月見月), ukiyo-e (1860)

Tsukimi customs include placing sprays of Japanese pampas grass (芒 susuki) and preparing rice dumplings called tsukimi dango (月見団子) to celebrate the lunar beauty. Seasonal foods like sweet potatoes, beans and chestnuts are offered to the moon. The alternative names of the festival, imomeigetsu (芋名月, "potato harvest moon"), mamemeigetsu (豆名月, "bean harvest moon") or kurimeigetsu (栗名月, "chestnut harvest moon") derive from these customs. The rabbit is another symbol associated with Tsukimi.


The origins of Tsukimi can be traced back to the Japanese tradition of holding festivals to watch the harvest moon. It is believed that Japanese nobles started the custom during the Heian period, gathering to recite and exchange poetry during the full moon. The eighth month of the Japanese lunar calendar (roughly September in the Gregorian calendar) has been consistently described as the best time to view the moon, as the relative positions of the earth, moon and sun make the moon appear exceptionally bright. On the evening of the full moon, it is tradition to gather, decorate the scene with susuki and serve tsukimi dango and other types of tsukimi ryōri (見料理, tsukimi dishes), such as taro, edamame, and chestnuts. These seasonal foods and sake serve as offerings to the moon to pray for a bountiful harvest.


Tsukimi dango (photo credit)

From 862 to 1683, the full moon fell on the 13th day of each month. In 1684, however, the calendar was changed so that the new moon always fell on the first day of the month and the full moon on the 15th day. While some people in Edo (modern-day Tōkyō) moved their tsukimi customs to the 15th day, others continued to celebrate on the 13th. Other regions held moon-viewing festivals on the 17th day of the month, while related Buddhist festivals were observed between the 23rd and 26th. In the Edo period, these festivities often escalated into wild nocturnal debauchery, so the custom was quickly terminated in the Meiji period.

Tsukimi-yagura (月見櫓) at Takamatsu Castle

Tsukimi-yagura (月見櫓) at Takamatsu Castle

Some Japanese castles had turrets called Tsukimi-yagura (月見櫓, lit. "moon-viewing turret"). Festivals dedicated to the moon have a long history in Japan. During the Heian period, set pieces used in the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival were brought to Japan. Nobles held moon viewing festivals on boats to view the reflection of moonlight on the water's surface or wrote tanka poems. There are particular Japanese terms to express that the moon is not visible on the evening of the Moon Festival, such as mugetsu (無月, lit. "no moon") and ugetsu (雨月, "rain moon"). However, even when the moon is invisible, tsukimi is celebrated. The general population most likely started celebrating the Lunar New Year festival in the Edo period (1603-1868).

Tsukimi food

Typical foods enjoyed during tsukimi are rice cakes, tsukimi dango, which are supposed to remind us of the full moon's beauty and are usually presented in a stack of fifteen balls corresponding to the old date of the festival. Other seasonal foods are related to autumn, such as tsukimi soba or tsukimi udon with nori and a raw egg in the middle, symbolising the full moon. Sushi garnished with a raw quail egg is called tsukimi style. Japanese fast food restaurants offer unique fried egg sandwiches in September and October called tsukimi burgers . Family restaurants offer tsukimi sets.

Tsukimi burger

Tsukimi burger

Tsukimi dishes

Tsukimi wakame, tsukimi gyusukikamatama, tsukimi tororo

Other more contemporary food variations include Tsukimi potatoe salad (below presented by Kewpie):

Tsukimi potatoe salad

Tsukimi potatoe salad

Legend of the moon rabbit:

In Japanese mythology, the moon rabbit is called Tsuki no Usagi (月の兎) and originates in Shintō, referring to the "Legend of the Fox, the Monkey and the Rabbit". According to this legend, a fox, a monkey and a rabbit - bound by deep friendship - played in the mountains during the day and hunted, spending the night together in the forest. The Lord of Heaven, Taishakuten (帝釈天), got word of this curious companionship and sought out the three friends, disguised as an old wanderer. He found them in the evening around the campfire and asked them for food. The monkey offered him nuts, and the fox served him fish. The rabbit, however, found nothing to share with the wanderer. When the monkey and the fox lambasted the rabbit, it leapt into the campfire in despair and shouted, "Eat me!". Deeply moved by this gesture, the Lord of Heaven revived the rabbit's body and took it to the moon. The smoke produced by the rabbit's self-sacrifice covered the shining surface of the moon and has been showing the rabbit's silhouette to this day.


The silhouette of Tsuki no Usagi (月の兎)

A version of the legend can be found in the Japanese anthology "Konjaku Monogatarishū" (今昔物語集), where a fox and a monkey act as the rabbit's companions.

Dates of the Tsukimi Festival:

  • 2022: 10-13 September
  • 2023: 29 September – 2 October
  • 2024: 7-10 September

Tsukimi emoji:

Several social media providers and mobile phone manufacturers offer an emoji for tsukimi:


Tsukimi emoji


Video of the Tsukimi Festival at Sumiyoshi-taisha, Osaka, in September 2014.