Monday, September 3, 2012

Moon Viewing (o-tsukimi)

by aleks

A line of people throughout the entire courtyard is what I saw when I arrived for the Moon Viewing ceremony last Saturday, September 1st; they were waiting to buy tickets. Not good, I thought, because I also heard that ticket pre-sales went exceptionally well this year. One of the things I like about our Seattle Japanese Garden is how understated everything about it is; as it should be  in a place designed for relaxation, meditation and respite from business and crazyness of everyday life.

SJG • 9/1/2012 - a paper moon over the weeping willow tree

My private dislike for crowds in the Japanese Garden and the Park Department's joy from profits the tickets sales brought are probably hard to reconcile, but I'm happy to report that the Garden held well with all the people who gathered to share the festivities and welcome the autumn full moon. Despite the fact that I had never had to maneuver  that many people on my way to the task I was entrusted with - launching the tiny boats with candles on them on the pond at dusk - the general atmosphere was that of shared quiet joy, and not a carnival, as I was afraid seeing how many people the event attracted this year.

SJG • 9/1/2012 - Joan Laage and Consuelo Gonzalez in 'Lunar Hare' - butoh dance.

Inspired by the legendary rabbit in the moon and moon imagery, it was first performed as a solo in Tokyo in 1988, and later, in a full-length work entitled Four Seasons in a Rock Garden in Taipei, Taiwan, and in Seattle with Joan's company Dappin' Butoh where Consuelo danced the role as the moon. Joan performs under the name Kogut Butoh and is a founding member of DAIPANbutoh Collective based in Seattle. She studied under butoh masters Kazuo Ohno and Yoko Ashikawa in Tokyo in the late 80s and performed in Ashikawa's company Gnome. A docent at the garden, Joan created the annual summer site-specific performance called Wandering and Wondering which Consuelo has performed in the past two years."

We all enjoyed a dance by Joan Laage and Consuelo Gonzalez (Kogut Butoh from DAIPABbutoh Collective), classical and contemporary koto music by Silk Strings (a koto ensemble renowned for performing a wide range of genre on Koto and other traditional Japanese instruments), a selection of traditional Japanese dances by the Fujima Dance Ensemble, which presented seasonal dances with glimpse of the Moon, and Okinawan folk and traditional music by Mako and Munjuru. Haiku Northwest held its traditional contest on the beauty of the moon, while the Astronomical Society provided the telescopes, and Seattle Tankokai  (Seattle Japanese tea ceremony association) presented a Tsukimi Chakai (Moon Viewing Tea).

SJG • 9/1/2012 - Koto music by the Silk Strings
• • • • • •

• But hey, how about this o-tsukimi related item: just recently, while working on SJG Plant List corrections, I learned from Maggie C. that the south bed of Azumaya has 4 of the 7 flowers of autumn, associated with Moon Viewing:

  - HAGI: bush clover, Latin name is Lespedeza thunbergii
  - SUSUKI (also say OBANA): Japanese pampas grass, Latin name is Miscanthus sinensis
  - FUJIBAKAMA: no English name, Latin name is Eupatrium foltnei
  - KIKYOU (also called ASAGAO): balloon flower, Latin name is Platycodon grandiflorum

Maggie C. provided this helpful link about the 7 flowers of autumn, while Hiroko chimed in:

Hi All,
To complete the Japanese seven flowers of autumn in our garden, we only need Kudzu (Pueraria thumbergiana), Pink (Dianthus superbus va. Longicalycinus) and Golden Valerian (Patrinia scabiosaefolia).
However, Kudzu is notoriously invasive in certain condition, and I would avoid adding it in our garden. I am sure that Sue and Patti will agree with me. The other two are available in US, and it might be fun to add them to the garden in future.

SJG • 9/1/2012 - a couple resting on he bench by the paper bark maple

•The wiki entry on o-tsukimi is this:
Tsukimi (月見?) 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 Japaneselunisolar 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.  [...] More here...

• The winner of the contest on moon haiku is still unknown to me, but here something else on the topic:

"The autumn moon is incomparably beautiful.  Any man who
supposes the moon is always the same, regardless of the season,
and is therefore unable to detect the difference in autumn, must
be exceedingly insensitive."

                                 --The Tsurezuregusa, by Kenko  (AD 1331);
                                     Translated by Donald Keene.

• I'm sorry about lack of nighttime pics - my camera doesn't handle the darkness well..

SJG • 9/1/2012 - Guide Heidi contemplates what she sees:) WOW!

• And NO, I didn't see the moon. It was hiding low,  somewhere below the tree line above the Garden... but saw it well from the parking lot,  when I was driving off.


  1. Thank you for your beautiful post again. I especially like "Weeping" Willow picture and the couple picture. These are the kind of pictures I would never be able to take it myself even if I was right there with you.

    I did not know that we had Fujibakama. Please note that KIKYO and ASAGAO are different plants. :)

  2. Keiko: thank you for your kind words on recording 'the life in our Garden' - my mileage and efforts naturally vary:), and especially on the pics - i'm a total amateur, with mileage probably even generally worse...

    Fujibakama (Joe Pye Weed) is purple blooming as we speak:). as to KIKYO and ASAGO - i will bring it to the PLant Committee's attention for further investigation on the names and differences, thank you!

    BTW, Keiko - would you be willing and able to help/collaborate regarding japanese plant names/mysteries any time soon? that would be a very interesting post to write, don't you think?!

  3. Incredible picture of the willow, I thought it was a painting at first glance. It has gotten too popular for me Aleks, I know what you mean about the crowds. Thanks for the great post

  4. thanks, Robert! i wish you were there to share it! in that crowd i was looking for you, you devil!:) but no, no you!:( see you soon?! hope!
    tell me about that willow pic: i do not know why i put it on the top of the post, except that i had to...