The many faces of the moon|Yuriko Mikami|KnowLedge World Network|Activities|KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL

  • 2019.07.12
  • The many faces of the moon
Milan’s hot summer is here. Surrounded by mountains, the city receives few breezes in the summer, resulting in high, heat-island temperatures that make even those of us used to Japan’s hot summers feel like we’ve been scorched. Not a day goes by where we don’t want to jump into a pool in order to cool ourselves down from head to toe.

Since I don’t have time to go to the pool, I ended up searching for pools in the city in the hopes that I could at least mentally cool myself down by looking at them. And I found a very interesting one in the process.

A pool with a giant moon.


And then I remembered. This July marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, so the moon is getting a lot more attention around the world than usual.

For the Japanese, the moon has a poetic and emotive presence. We see a rabbit pounding rice cakes in its patterns of light and shadow, and have ancient legends that say that a Princess named Kaguya lives there. But the actual moon is a harsh place where no living things can survive due to the lack of water and air.

So how do the people of the West see the moon? The word for moon in Italian is a feminine noun, so the Italians see it as female. Franco Zeffirelli, a master director who passed away just recently, made a religious film called Brother Sun, Sister Moon depicting half of St. Francis’s life, and Riz Ortolani who scored music for it produced some moving melodies that soothe the soul. The lyrics tell how St. Francis referred to the sun as his brother and the moon as his sister—extolling the natural world as a beautiful family to be adored.

But in everyday life, the Italians use an expression that translates to “moon-like” to refer to people that are lunatic. It came about because of the unstable behavior of people who are somehow sensitive to the effects of the waxing and waning moon, so the people of Italy don’t see the moon in a very positive light.

In Norway, there is a well-known fairy tale called “East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon”, and people also use this phrase to refer to moods or places that carry an air of mystery. I also heard that there was a children’s program in the US depicting the moon as being smart and dependable, but Japan may be rather unique in the love it has for a moon steeped in romance. It may be worth investigating moon-watching rather than lunar surface.


Getting back to the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, a British artist named Luke Jerram created giant moons that are being displayed in various locations across the US, France, and the UK, creating a decorative backdrop in various contexts.



One of those is the swimming pool in Milan. Apparently the newspaper ran a headline that read “Come and swim towards the moon”. The moon at a pool! That’s got to be the strangest place for it. You’ve got to love those Italians…

I visited the pool in the morning, but they are keeping it open until 4 AM during the moon project, so I’m sure nighttime is the best time to see it and get that “full moon over the ocean” effect.





I recently visited the Natural History Museum in London, where I saw another of Luke Jerram’s works. A giant bluish-white moon filled a darkened room, hanging so low that you almost felt you could reach out and touch it. As I joined the other visitors in gazing at the soft, magical light that filled the dim space, my thoughts turned to the relationship that human beings have with our moon.

What kind of project would you have done to celebrate the moon?

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  • Yuriko Mikami
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A cellist based in Milan. Performs solo and ensemble concerts, as well as produces multi-style stage performances that combine theatrical shows, images, dances and live music.

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