Saturday, 14 January 2012

August: Leaf Month

The name for August, ‘Hazuki’, refers to the changing seasons and the falling leaves. August features the ‘Susuki’ (similar to pampas grass). ‘Tsukimi’, or moon viewing, is the autumnal counterpart to Cherry blossom viewing. Both Cherry blossom viewing and moon viewing are often accompanied by the drinking of Sake, or rice wine. The traditional date for moon viewing is 15 August. In the old solar-lunar calendar the month started and ended with the new moon. The middle of the month would be the full moon. However, because the old calendar started about a month later than our modern calendars, the actual date is closer to 15 September which is nearer to the autumnal equinox.

The autumn moon is also known as the ‘Harvest moon’ or ‘Hunter’s moon’. It is usually described as the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. That is, the full moon closest to when the day and night are the same length in the autumn. The full moon usually rises close to when the sun is setting. When the moon is full the sun and moon are on exactly opposite sides of the Earth. When the moon is new, the moon is on the same side of the Earth as the sun, which is why we can't see it at night.

As the year progresses the length of days changes. Days are longer in the summer and shorter in the winter. In the winter the full moon rises after the sun has set. In the summer, the full moon rises before the sun has set. At the equinoxes, the days and nights are exactly the same length. Consequently, the moon is rising in the east at exactly the same time the sun is setting in the west.

It is called the ‘Harvest moon’ or ‘Hunter’s moon’ because people were able to continue working into the night by the light of the full moon without any gap between the setting sun and the rising moon. You will notice that the sky of the moon card is red. This is because the moon is rising at sunset.  The card with wild Geese shows the seasonal migration of birds. In the autumn Geese migrate from Siberia and northern China to spend the winter in Japan.

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