JAPANESE SEASONS: AUTUMN AND THE MOON
Aki, the Japanese word for Autumn, is celebrated with the Shūbun no Hi holiday. Every year, 23 September officially marks the transition from the long, hot Natsu summer to cooler temperatures and finally clear, crisp skies.
Autumn is also the harvest season. The full moon of early Autumn is called the Harvest Moon. It rises from the east and gives a clear and lasting light on most nights. Japanese society, with its strong agricultural traditions, has many festivals linked to the harvesting of rice, an essential part of the daily diet.
JAPANESE AUTUMN CITIES AND FESTIVALS
During October, many traditional festivals, Matsuri, are held in various cities of Japan. In Kyoto, we find the Ningyō Kuyō or Doll Festival, an ancient ceremony held in the Hōkyō-ji temple where traditionally the imperial princesses ruled the convent as high-ranking priestesses. To these princesses, separated from the court’s lavishness, the emperor sent dolls to play with every Autumn and Spring. These dolls are still there today.
AUTUMN’S TRADITIONS IN JAPANESE CITIES
Among the spirits existing in Japan, we find the Tsukumogami who fall into the broader category of the Yokai. Tsukumogami takes shape when an object is over 100 years old, and dolls, just like other objects that resemble the human form, are likely to evolve as spirits and even have a soul. The Hōkyō-ji festival serves as a ritual to comfort the spirits of dolls that have been scarred and consumed over the years.
Every 14 October, during the ceremony, the sisters arrange the dolls and say goodbye to them. Through a ritual, they thank them for all the years they have spent together. Then, to set them free, they burn them, thus separating them forever from the princesses who are no longer there.
MOMIJIGARI, AUTUMN LEAVES HUNT
Witnessing the seasons and closely observing the changes in the surrounding nature is a typical element of Japanese culture. When the first colds start, the Momiji season “officially” begins. The Japanese people run around “hunting the best tree” or the best spot where they can admire the brightest autumn colors. Momijigari is the Japanese word that describes this costume of ancient origins.
Every journey to Japan will give you precious experiences and memories. If you are planning a trip in Autumn, we strongly recommend that you join the locals and take part in the “Fall leaves hunt”!