The dango, ready to go into classes
About two weeks ago I went into my daughter’s school to help celebrate the festival of O-tsukimi, or moon watching. In ancient times, the people of Japan celebrated the harvest moon waxing and waning in September and October and the tradition, in various forms has survived the centuries. In many homes, the Japanese will spend time outside on the nights of the full moon, watching it. Tradition says that children look at the moon to see the rabbit who lives in it. People decorate with pampas grass, or susuki, and they eat dango, dumplings made out of mochi flour.
At Sydney’s school, they held an assembly to remind the students to watch the moon and tell the story of the rabbit. The cross cultural committee of the parents group, of which I am a member, dressed up in traditional yukata and served dango
Me, in yukata getting ready to serve the dango
with the sweet mitarashi sauce that goes with it. The kids loved the story and the treats almost as much as we loved sharing it with them.
Traditions can be very beautiful in their simplicity.
Today I wore yukata for the first time. Putting it on was a whole process that took nearly half an hour, but it was worth it. Thank you to Kitamura-sensei at Nishimachi International school for dressing me properly. I started with a plain white t-shirt and white shorts underneath. The Japanese wear a small slip-like item that ties in the front. Then the yukata goes on. After that, there is a tie around the hips and a special “puffing” out so that the hem comes up. It doesn’t matter how tall or short one is – a yukata fits. (One of my friends is so skinny that sensei had to make folds in the cloth so it wouldn’t appear so huge – there were perfect little tucks all across her back when the sensei was finished.) Then there’s a string around my waist, nice and snug. The finishing touch is the obi, which can be tied in many many different ways. An obi is nearly 9 feet long – it wraps around me twice, and then it’s thrown over my shoulder to start the bow, and pulled back to finish off. Here are a number of steps in the process:
The hip tie
At this point it took two “dressers” to help me.
Putting on – “wearing” – the yukata is an art. Not everyone knows how to do it properly.
Starting the obi process
Making a very complex bow.
Here I am ready to serve the odango for otsukimi – moon watching, which is the reason I was doing this in the first place. More on the festival later.
From start to finish, it was quite an experience. It was snug, but not overly tight. A yukata differs from a kimono in its formality and fabric. The yukata are lighter in weight, and mostly worn in summer and therefore, they are less formal. While it was snug, it wasn’t uncomfortable. I actually felt very um…supported. I felt all loose when I took it off. It was a very interesting sensation – putting it on and removing it.