Tsukimi, or Otsukimi, means moon viewing in Japanese, and is a traditional celebration observed in Japan on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. This typically places Tsukimi between mid-September to early October depending on the lunar cycle, and this year Tsukimi will be observed on September 21 in Japan. This festival can be referred to as Tsukimi, Otsukimi, or Jugoya in Japanese, but in English it is typically called the Autumn Moon Festival. The Autumn Moon Festival is all about celebrating the autumn season and in particular, the moon, whose equinox marks the beginning of autumn. As with most celebrations, food is an important part of this Japanese festival. There are a lot of delicious Japanese snacks and sweets that people enjoy during Tsukimi, which are called Tsukimi ryori. Here’s a guide to some of the best Japanese snacks to eat in celebration of Tsukimi!
One of the most traditional Tsukimi ryori is Tsukimi Dango, which you’ll find at any Autumn Moon Festival celebration in Japan. This version of dango is kept very plain and mostly free from added colors or flavors. To celebrate Tsukimi, 15 Tsukimi Dango are arranged in a pyramid structure on a plate and placed near a window underneath the moonlight. Sometimes one or two yellow dango are made and placed atop the pyramid to represent the harvest moon.
Japanese mochi is a staple food of many festivals, and Tsukimi is no exception. For Tsukimi, Japanese mochi is prepared in the shape of a rabbit in honor of the moon. This cute Tsukimi ryori comes from the Japanese story of two rabbits kneading mochi on the moon. It’s believed that you can see the rabbits kneading mochi during the full moon viewing of Tsukimi, with the moon’s craters forming the shapes of the rabbits and the mochi mallet.
Seasonal dishes are also great foods to celebrate Tsukimi with, so Japanese autumn vegetables like sweet potatoes and kabocha, which is Japanese pumpkin, are perfect Tsukimi ryori too. These foods can be enjoyed as savory dishes, like miso-glazed sweet potato or roasted kabocha, or as sweet Japanese snacks like candied sweet potatoes (daigaku imo) or kabocha dango.
Another great Tsukimi ryori is taro, which is a Japanese root vegetable harvested in the fall. Taro resembles a cross between a kiwi and a coconut, but once peeled they look and feel similar to potatoes. The most popular way to enjoy taro involves simmering the peeled vegetable in a soy-sauce based sauce, which allows them to absorb all of the delicious flavors.
If you’re celebrating Tsukimi at home, these foods may be inaccessible, but you can find some great Tsukimi ryori on Bokksu Market! The new Moon Festival Box features a curated collection of snacks that are perfect for the Autumn Moon Festival, with a mixture of sweet and savory snacks along with some Hoshino Hojicha Latte mix to enjoy with them. Delicious snacks like Kurumi Walnut Mochi and Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Black Syrup Kinako bring classic autumnal flavors to the collection, while snacks like a decadent Black Strawberry and tangy Setouchi Lemon Mochi round out the flavor profile.
Tsukimi is all about appreciating the fall season and the autumn moon, so make sure to add to the celebration by planning some Japanese snacks to appreciate too!