by Eve Corbett
I am sure many people back in the United States have heard about the super moon eclipse that took place on September 27 this year. The amazing phenomenon surely lured many people out of their homes during late hours of the night to observe the moon and sky. If you were one of these observers then congratulations for two reason; Not only did you get to see the rare supermoon eclipse, but you also subconsciously took part in the Japanese Moon Festival that was held on the very same night. The festival is held every year during autumn and the participants relax in beautiful surroundings while eating their odango (a type of Japanese sweet dumpling resembling the moon) and moon gazing. Japan is well known for its interest and appreciation for the beautiful simplicity of nature, and it expresses this interest through festivals such as The Moon Festival.
My host family and I drove to Korakuen garden for The Moon Festival, which is among the top three of the best landscaped gardens in Japan. We walked through the garden and enjoyed its beauty as the sun was setting. I especially loved the large koi ponds and the gurgling streams that flow all throughout the garden, and the crisp scent of autumn in the night air. As I sat in the grass, eating my odango and gazing at the night sky, I felt a strong appreciation for nature. With that appreciation I realized just how important nature really is in Japan. The Japanese people tend to have a lot of appreciation for things that, to a foreigner, my at first seem insignificant. Activities like moon-gazing in autumn or cherry blossom viewing in the spring are just a couple of examples of nature-based activities that play a huge role in Japanese culture.
There are multiple festivals held every year that celebrate nature’s beauty, but it is also appreciated in day to day life in Japan as well. One way that you can include nature’s appreciation in your home life is by purchasing Japanese woodfired pottery. The pottery is made in kilns dug into the side of mountains and instead of being glazed the pottery is covered by the melted ash of red pine trees whose wood is used to heats the kilns’.This method creates very rustic and earthy pots that generally are within a range of browns for color. I was lucky enough to attend one of the most popular ceramics festivals in Japan: Bizenyaki (Bizen Pottery) Festival. The festival is held in Bizen, a historical town known for its ceramics for hundreds of years. If any of you know my mother then you will have an idea of how ecstatic she was when she found out I was going. Because the pottery is rough and earthy, it sometimes seems as if the pot was formed out of stone, like it was made from the earth in that very form. Therefor buying a piece of this pottery will bring nature’s beauty right into your own home through the form of bowls, vases, tea pots, and more.
But this appreciation for nature is even taken one step further through a mindset called “mottainai.” Mottainai is an idea that is very difficult to translate. It is the idea that nothing should be wasted, especially food. If crusts of bread go uneaten then they are fried and sweetened to make them more desirable and are then eaten as a snack. When eating rice you should not leave even a single piece in your bowl to go to waste. Every grain of rice should be eaten, and yes you would be using chopsticks. It’s not as hard as it may sound. This practice even goes beyond food and into other subjects such as recycling. Almost everything is recycled in Japan and it is often difficult to know what trashcan you are supposed to use for each material. Instead of just two trash cans, one for trash and one for recycling, like in America, there could be as many as five different containers for five different types of garbage/recyclables. Although this system may seem tedious, it sure is effective for helping the earth and protecting nature.
In conclusion, Japan not only adores nature and loves to be surrounded by it, but it also takes action in preserving and appreciating every tiny part of it. Back in The United States it might be a little difficult to part take in all of these nature appreciating activities, but that’s okay. Even little things like recycling that soda can or taking sometime to admire the autumn leaves are important. It would be wonderful if we could all have a little bit of mottainai in our lives.
Eve Corbett is a junior at Lincoln Academy, currently spending the school year in Okayama, Japan with Greenheart Travel. She is the daughter of Jody Corbett and Elizabeth Proffetty of Newcastle.