The myth of the rabbit making mochi on the moon is a favorite one in Japan, and seems to be as pervasive as the Easter Rabbit dying eggs story. It shows up in culture as toys, art, cartoons, religious art, and pop art.
I have created a gallery of images I have collected over the years. And you can see more pictures of the bunny, mochi, and moon quilt made for my niece here as well as find sources for fabrics.
Last Autumn, we attended a little lecture on the Japanese tea ceremony and the Four Seasonal Icons of Japanese autumn culture – “Mangetsu(full moon), Oborozuki(moon obscured by clouds),Susuki (autumn grass), and of course, Usagi (rabbits). We learned why rabbits and autumn grass are paired and why the moon hides behind clouds in so many images of autumn, just as we Westerners will depict Autumn with dried corn, falling leaves, a pumpkin, or turkey.
At the tea ceremony, we were even given a sweet shaped like a rabbit.
Long blog short, the grass produces the seed heads at about the same time as the full moon, clouds are common at the time but also serve as a means of enhancing the fullness and brightness of the moon. The rabbit, meanwhile, is seen on the moon itself in many cultures, including Asian, indigenous Latin American, and native Pacific Northwest tribes. In Japanese culture, the rabbit pounds rice into mochi.
Tsukimi or Otsukimi, literally moon-viewing, refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar; the waxing moon is celebrated on the 13th day of the ninth month. These days normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar.
The tradition dates to the Heian era, and is now so popular in Japan that some people repeat the activities for several evenings following the appearance of the full moon during the eighth lunisolar month.
Tsukimi traditions include displaying decorations made from Japanese pampas grass (susuki) and eating rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. Seasonal produce are also displayed as offerings to the moon. Sweet potatoes are offered to the full moon, while beans or chestnuts are offered to the waxing moon the following month. The alternate names of the celebrations, Imomeigetsu (literally “potato harvest moon”) and Mamemeigetsu (“bean harvest moon”) or Kurimeigetsu (“chestnut harvest moon”) are derived from these offerings.
Tsukimi refers to the Japanese tradition of holding parties to view the harvest moon. The custom is thought to have originated with Japanese aristocrats during theHeian period, who would gather to recite poetry under the full moon of the eighth month of the lunisolar calendar, known as the “Mid-Autumn Moon.” Since ancient times, Japanese people have described the eighth lunisolar month (corresponding to September on the contemporary Gregorian calendar) as the best time for looking at the moon, since the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon cause the moon to appear especially bright. On the evening of the full moon, it is traditional to gather in a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate the scene with Japanese pampas grass, and to serve white rice dumplings (known as Tsukimi dango), taro, edamame, chestnuts and other seasonal foods, plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest. These dishes are known collectively as Tsukimi dishes (???? tsukimi ry?ri)
As International Rabbit Day (4th Saturday of September) falls so close to the same period, we would like to get bunny lovers better acquainted with this fascinating celebration.
Tilbert is named for Seattle Tilth, a once great organization that used to simply promote urban gardening and stewardship. Unfortunately, its priorities shifted as it decided to “grow its mission”, and now it has joined the hipster bandwagon of promoting the raising of animals in your yard as meat. And of course, this includes rabbits because some whack job convinced them that rabbits are low cost and low maintenance, needing just leftovers from a garden. No mention of hay, sociability, companionship, or the fact that many domesticated rabbits can’t survive outside.
Needless to say, we stopped our donations not only to the ST, but to the radio show that featured their outreach member.
But one of the good things we learned from them is that one of the best fertilizers is rabbit poop. It not only can go into the compost bin, but it can actually be spread directly on plants. And guess what plant loves bunny poop? Rhubarb.
So we planted a few plants on our roof deck, and fertilize all year with stray pellets. When Food 52 came produced this group of recipes, we had to share it.
In particular, these two caught our eyes.
Rhubarb and Rose Ramos Gin Fizz
2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
2 ounces rhubarb syrup
1 ounce heavy cream
1 or 2 drops rosewater
1 egg white
Combine all ingredients except ice and soda in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Then add ice to shaker and shake a further 30 seconds. Strain into a tall chilled glass and top up with soda.
To make rhubarb syrup, cut a pound of rhubarb stalks into one-inch pieces, wrap them in cheesecloth, and simmer for a half hour in 2 C water and 1 C sugar. Strain into a glass container with a lid and refrigerate.
Naughty Rhubarb Scones
Serves 12-16 scones
3 stalks rhubarb
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
2/3–3/4 cups heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425.
Slice rhubarb stalks 1/4 ” thick. Toss with 3 tablespoons of the sugar.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl or bowl of food processor.
Cut butter into flour mixture by hand (or whiz with food processor) until butter is the size of small peas.
Blend in 1/4 cup of the sugar.
Blend in sliced rhubarb. (If using the food processor, just pulse — you want the slices left mostly intact.)
Blend in cream until a soft dough forms. (note: you may need to add more than 2/3 cup depending on the weather,etc.)
Transfer dough to floured surface and divide in half. To make triangular scones, flatten into 6-inch disks and cut each circle into 6-8 scones. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Arrange on ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 20 minutes or until reddish-brown on top.
Our “frosted” biscotti are now available at Bunny Bytes. Banana Bunny Biscotti is frosted with a puree of carrot, beet, or parsley in our new flower shape. Our testers seem to prefer this shape as it is easier to grab and run–talking to you Tilbert, Flower and Buttercup!
My friend at Bunny Bytes made this quilt for me to give to my brother and his wife for their first born. The quilt loosely tells a story of a little bunny who after a day of playing, makes mochi (rice cakes) and then watches the moon rise with her parents before drifting to sleep and moon dreams. The rabbit and the moon is a myth found in many cultures. In Japan, the rabbit makes mochi on the moon. A friend explained: in Japanese “rice pounding bunny” is written as ????, which reads “mochi tsuki usagi” and translates literally as “mochi-making rabbit.” Mochi-tsuki is the traditional ceremony/process where mochi is made by pounding rice. The funny thing is that the rabbit actually appears to be in the moon, appearing to make mochi. And the reading of the word for “making” is the same as “moon” (“tsuki”).
One of our testers, Maddie, was featured on KOMO news yesterday morning. She appeared twice, first live, and then recorded for later viewing. Her publicist refused the request for two live viewings as Maddie had a busy Easter weekend.