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Japan Days 18-19: Autumn Equinox

Today there was a full moon. Due to my level of Japanese I am not positive, but I believe that today’s full moon was extra special due to the time of year. **(update, I figured out that it was the Autumn Equinox.) Whatever the case, I came home from school to find obaachan boiling taro root and setting out a vase of some sort of flower/grass/fern type arrangement.

Typically dango (rice paste balls) are served as well, but when obaachan went to the store they were completely sold out—due to everyone else buying them up for the occasion as well—much like how grocery stores in the US run out of turkeys around Thanksgiving. So instead of dango, she bought—for lack of a better word—an autumn themed wagashi, or traditional Japanese dessert made out of things like rice flour (mochi), agar and various bean pastes.

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I was super excited to experience this, because 1) this is an incredibly “everyday” or “mundane” tradition, 2) most of the things obaachan and I have shared so far have related to whatever we are watching on the TV, and 3) I can’t get wagashi in the US and it fascinates me.

After dinner we wandered outside for a bit, looking at the moon, then we went inside to look at it from the second floor of the house. Obaasan told me many stories about the moon and why today’s full moon was important, but even though I understood about 60% of what she was saying at the time I can not for the life of me remember it now, just a few hours later… >.<

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I do know though that the circular taro, the circular dango/wagashi and the grasses are supposed to be made and eaten in thanks, appreciation and reverence of the moon. In the past there was more of a ceremony of sorts that went along with this, that included offering these things to the moon before consuming them, but now it is much simpler.

Friday was another day full of classes. It has only been one week since classes started, but I am not fond of three hour long classes in the middle of the day. It also feels wrong to have homework, since the time outside of class is spent traveling around, sightseeing, and hanging out with new friends!

Friday night a large—and I mean large—group of us went out to an Izakaya called Chiba-chan’s for dinner. At dinner I got to practice Japanese and I learned about many new things—including something called the “baka” or “idiot” size. These sizes are for large groups of people like ours, or stupid people who just want to eat that much food.

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Before I end this post, I also wanted to mention that when I am not adventuring and spending time sitting in my classes, I usually spend some quality time hanging out on campus, and I have made a surprising amount of new friends from that! So I just want to give a quick thank you to everyone who has been so kind and outgoing, and is willing—excited even—to communicate using a bizarre mixture of Japanese and English. Today I was just sitting in the SALC, an “English Only” zone on campus, with some IES friends, and we randomly—in about 20 minutes—became fast friends with several Japanese students.

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Tomorrow I am spending the entire day in Tokyo with one of my Japanese friends, Mizuki, and I am sure I will have a lot more to say and many pictures to show you all! 😀 So stay tuned!

じゃ、また明日!

1 Comment

  1. I absolutely love wagashi and they have so many varieties here in Japan! I’m always on the look out for new ones to try.

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