Hundreds gather at Lake Merritt for Japanese Moon Viewing Festival
on October 27, 2015
On Sunday night, Oaklanders gathered by moonlight for a traditional Japanese celebration of the Harvest Moon.
Around 200 people came together at Lake Merritt’s Lakeside Park Garden Center for the 49th annual Otsukimi Moon Viewing Festival. After an indoor program that included martial arts demonstrations and Japanese drums, festival-goers walked to the lake to join astronomers and observe the powerful October new moon.
The festival is organized by the Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association, which aims to promote “cultural awareness, understanding, and friendship” between Oakland and Fukuoka, according to the festival organizers. “The harvest moon is a symbol of blessing and abundance for many cultures, including Japan,” wrote the organizers on the event website. “The moon viewing parties are occasions for sharing food and stories, while enjoying what is considered the most beautiful moon of the year.”
Student delegates shared their experiences studying abroad in Fukuoka in an exchange program organized by the Asian Pacific Children’s Convention. Up next was a demonstration from Nishi Kaigan Iaido Dojo, a Berkeley-based martial arts school teaches iaido, a traditional Japanese martial art known for using long swords. The program closed with a spirited performance by drumming group Diablo Taiko, who brought the crowd to their feet with a participatory call-and-response number.
After dark, the crowd then walked towards Lake Merritt, guided down a path illuminated only by glowsticks. They were met by members of the East Bay Astronomical Society, a group of astro-enthusiasts who were standing beside their telescopes and with binoculars, ready to show off craters and moon rays to the group.
“We come out and support it with our telescopes so after the performance folks can come out here and look at the moon,” said Gerald McKeegan, a coordinator for the East Bay Astronomical Society. “People are mostly surprised to see the craters. It’s really amazing to see that there really are holes all over the moon.”
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The Eastbay Astronomical Society has been showing the Moon at this annual event for more than 15 years, and it’s always been a pleasure. My thanks to Liane, who invites us every year, and to Nate McKenna, who organizes our rag-tag group of amateur astronomers to make sure we all get there on time with our telescopes.
We look forward to doing more Otsukimi (Moon Viewing) events with Fukuoka Sister City Association into perpetuity. See you next year, or, if you can’t wait that long, come up and visit us at the Chabot Space & Science Center’s three large telescopes, which are free to the public every Fri/Sat night (weather permitting) (it’s always a good idea to check the Chabot website, first, to make sure the facility is actually open for the night you plan to come up – it occasionally does get rented out).