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Rabbits in the Moon

Cultural Quintessence

Japan In-depth

Kateigaho International Edition

Rabbits in the Moon

Rabbits in Japanese Confections

Photographs (from upper left to right)

Usagi (Rabbit)
Rakugan (molded rice flour) hopping rabbit has pale pink-tinged ears, adding charm. This shop also makes a jellied sweet (hankin'gyoku) combining a nerikiri (kneaded bean paste) moon with a yokan (candied bean paste) rabbit in relief.

Kyogashi Tsukasa Murasaki no Gensui
Kitaoji Shinmachi Kudaru, Kita-ku, Kyoto
Tel. 075-451-8857

Tamausagi (Bunny ball)
Perfectly round rakugan bunny (rice flour and sugar) is modeled on a rabbit prostrate before the gods.

Itoya Confectionary Shop
1281 Oaza Yahiko, Yahiko-mura Nishikanbara-gun, Niigata-ken
Tel. 0256-94-2072

Tamausagi
Konashi-based bunny (warm bean paste mixed with wheat flour and steamed) has ears seared with an iron on its surface. Yellow-tinged white bean-paste center alludes to moon-viewing with the subtlety expected of a tea ceremony sweet.

Genta
2-5-5 Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3368-0826

Tamausagi
Kinton rabbit (strands of Japanese yam and bean paste layered around a ball of strained azuki paste) has pink yokan ears (candied bean paste). Yam's sticky quality gives a unique consistency.

Chimoto
1-4-6 Yakumo, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3718-4643

Gekka-no-utage (Banquet beneath the moon)
A rectangular, grated-yam manju (bean jam-filled bun) features a rabbit perched on a tuft of grass admiring the moon, created in celebration of moon-viewing events.

Traya
4-9-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 0120-45-4121

Paris Store
10, rue Saint Florentin, 75001 Paris
Tel. (33) 01 42 60 13 00

Meoto (Rabbit husband and wife)
Pink and white bunnies made of rakugan (rice flour and sugar) are packaged as a set in a small pink bag.

Itoya Confectionary Shop
1281 Oaza Yahiko, Yahiko-mura Nishikanbara-gun, Niigata-ken
Tel. 0256-94-2072

Hanausagi
Dried sweets made of wasanbon (Japanese cane sugar) in rabbit motifs come in a small box. Typical rabbit motifs (jumping, curled in a ball, with waves) are carved in detail on these tiny pink "canvases".

Kawamuraya
2-18-1 Shinsakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Tel. 052-262-0481

Usagi Sanshu (Rabbits: three styles)
A set of three rabbits (curled in a ball, crouching, and jumping) are made of granulatedsugar, unlike typical Japanese sweets.

Shiono
2-13-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel.03-3582-1881

Usagi
White Japanese yam-based manju bun with branded ears reflects tea-ceremony taste. Suggesting a rabbit without eyes or nose is quintessential Japanese wagashi (confection). The filling is unstrained azuki bean-paste.

Chimoto
1-4-6 Yakumo, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3718-4643

The venerable legend of "The White Rabbit of Inaba," and the fable of "The Tortoise and the Hare" are proof that Japanese have been interested in rabbits through the ages. The fact that these creatures are so prolific has made them an appropriate symbol of wealth.
Perhaps the first linkage of hoppers and the moon came from India, where one legend tells of a rabbit that cannot bear to see people starve and jumps into the fire so they can have food. As a reward for this self-sacrifice, the god Indra is said to have taken the rabbit to the moon. The story then traveled to China. There, the rabbit has become a pharmacist, mixing medicines with mortar and pestle.
The tale then passed to Japan, where the rabbit is pounding mochi rice cakes, instead of pulverizing medicinal herbs. All over the world, people have likened the shadows on the moon to all sorts of things, but the Japanese have always been infatuated with the idea of the rabbit pounding mochi. This can be seen at traditional confectionary shops throughout the nation, where people stand in line to buy cakes with a rabbit motif for the autumn moon-viewing season.

This lacquerware moon-viewing tray with gold maki-e design was passed down through generations of the Tada family, long established in Miwa-cho, Fukuoka Prefecture. The tray was made to order in the famous lacquerware-producing region of Wajima. In the midst of a field of wild autumn grasses, a hare stands gazing wistfully at the moon, as if longing to return home. He was said to descend to Earth around the time of the three-day moon, and return home when the moon was full.
photograph by Masakatsu Mitoma

text by Machico Yorozu
photography by Tomoyasu Naruse
research assistance by BANS, Junko Tomita
Tamenuri lacquerware dish provided by Uruwashiya




O Rabbit, Rabbit
What do you see that makes you hop?
It's Mr. Moon I see that makes me hop.

Children's Song


Kohaku Usagi Manju
(Red and white rabbit buns)

Grated-yam manju is modeled into a cute bunny. White one is filled with strained bean paste; pink paste is unstrained. Also sold individually.

Toraya
4-9-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 0120-45-4121

Paris Store
10, rue Saint Florentin, 75001 Paris
Tel. (33) 01 42 60 13 00

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