Otsukimi, Sputnik and the harvest moon

Otsukimi, Sputnik and the harvest moon

The full autumn moon is considered to be the most beautiful moon of the year in China and Japan. It is the first full moon after the autumn equinox,  also known as the harvest moon.  This year, the harvest  moon falls on October 5.  You can read more about the harvest moon, here.

Tsukimii or Otsukimi, is the traditional  autumn moon-viewing festival in Japan.  There are picnics under the stars. People sing songs, and write poems. Rice cakes are served, round as the moon. You can read more here.

The moon is a symbol of many things–change, impermanence, dreams, love. It is our closest companion in the vastness of space, a light at night before there were lights of cities.   It is still bright enough to outshine the city lights, and it is often photographed  against an urban setting, a contrast to our contemporary world.

It is also pictured over mountains like Mount Fuji, fields, trees, or waves on a beach. It is the changing face of the natural world.

The moon is also often pictured over ancient things–the pyramids, Stonehenge, Roman ruins, a witness to human history.

Maybe it is not surprising then, that the moon became a symbol of human striving, as well as a political symbol in the space race.

Sixty years ago today,  on October 4, 1957,  the first signals were received from Sputnik, the first satellite sent into space. You could say it was the start of the space age and the space race between Russia and the US.  Sputnik was launched from Kazakhstan, where the rockets to the International Space Station are launched today.

There is a replica of Sputnik at the Adler Planetarium. It is round as a basketball, and not much bigger.  You can read more about Sputnik courtesy of Space.com here.

The name Sputnik is often translated as “fellow traveller” or a companion on a journey. So, too, the moon is our companion, on our journey through time and space. It is still there, every night, a witness to our lives.

And all over our sad and divided world, we  share our  hopes and dreams, under this harvest moon.



Leave a comment
  • Not to mention defining the calendar; pro forma now, but still good in some religions.
    Also the tides. I was in Florida this week, and the big story was the King Tide.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for reading, Jack!

    Yes, Babylonian, Celtic and Mayan calendars were lunar--Hindu, Chinese, Hebrew and Islamic calendars are still lunar calendars. Sighting of the lunar crescent is start of Ramadan. First new moon after the winter solstice is beginning of Chinese (Asian) new year.

    Many animals are also influenced by the moon and tides. The recent full moon, combined with Nate, caused high tides and storm surge along the East coast.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Your last sentence reminds me of something else. The temperature in the Tampa Bay area was about 95 degrees and very humid all last week. The weather anchors said that that wasn't normal and that it had something to do with the wind flow around Nate, even though Nate didn't hit anywhere near there (usual statements about we're glad it wasn't us, but someone in the Gulf Coast was going to get hit).

    Another thing I noticed there is that the water tasted and smelled of sulfur, and the air did too. I knew about the sulfur before and was told it had to do with getting the water out of the aquifer. I assume the air was because of all the recirculating water features in the landscape.

  • In reply to jack:

    Good point, Jack. these hurricanes/tropical storms are huge--and they affect conditions far away. Look at Ophelia in UK now, with ash from wildfires and sand from the Sahara.

    What would cause sulphur in the aquifer? I will have to do more research...

Leave a comment