Tōrō & Rising Half-Moon, c. 1910.

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“The moon of the springtime loses her brightest beams among the blossoms of the flowers; in the summertime the water reflects her image in purer tints than her own light; in the winter the north wind robs her rays of much of their lustre; but in the autumn all nature is her friend, and rejoices to see her at her best.”

The Star Lovers, Baron Takahira Kogoro, 1901

Tōrō and rising moon, embossed postcard, c. 1910.

Tōrō [stone lantern] and rising half-moon, embossed postcard, c. 1910. In Japan, tōrō were originally used only in Buddhist temples, where they lined and illuminated paths and were considered an offering to Buddha. In modern gardens tōrō have a purely ornamental function, most often positioned near water or next to a building.

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 the Heian period, who would gather to recite poetry under the full moon of the eighth month of the solar calendar, known as the ‘Mid-Autumn Moon’. Since ancient times, Japanese people have described the eighth solar month (corresponding to September on the contemporary Georgian 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 service white rice dumplings (known as Tsukimi dango), taro, chestnuts and other seasonal foods, plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest.

“… Members of the aristocratic class would hold moon-viewing events aboard boats in order to view the moon’s reflection on the surface of the water. The writing of tanka poetry was also an element of such mid-autumn viewing festivities.”

In the Wake of Basho: Bestiary in the Rock Garden, by Yury Lobo, 2016

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  1. Pingback: “Ladies’ hair-dresser”, c. 1930. | Old TokyoOld Tokyo

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