Go to Renku Home.



Selected by Kenkichi Yamamoto
Translated by Kris Young Kondo and William J. Higginson
Edited for Renku Home with added information on the seasonal system
by William J. Higginson

Use the following links to navigate to specific areas in the season word list, or just scroll down through it. See below for a summary of these categories, and for help finding specific terms in the list. Click here for background on the origin of this list. Here is an explanation of one of this list's important features: the parts of the seasons. Click here if you would like to propose an addition to a new season word list. (Search first to make sure that it's not already included!)
The Season The Season The Season The Season The Season
The Heavens The Heavens The Heavens The Heavens The Heavens
The Earth The Earth The Earth The Earth The Earth
Humanity Humanity Humanity Humanity Humanity
Observances Observances Observances Observances Observances
Animals Animals Animals Animals Animals
Plants Plants Plants Plants Plants

NEW! Each entry includes the name of the relevant time period. Clicking on the this time period takes you to an explanation of when this is in the Gregorian calendar.

There is another list of season words on the WWW, a kiyose by Hiromi Inoue of the Shiki Team in Matsuyama, Japan. To access it, scroll down to the table about half-way down the following page: http://shiki1.cc.ehime-u.ac.jp/~shiki/kukai.html. I don't know what Mr. Inoue used for a reference list, but this list in English (with Japanese terms for most topics) is fairly comprehensive.

And an English translation of a full (small) Japanese haiku saijiki is underway at the Japanese Text Initiative of the University of Virginia, "Japanese Haiku: A Topical Dictionary": http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/japanese/haiku/saijiki/index.html. So far, mainly the seasonal topics and season words have been translated, but there are a few full entries with sample poems done, as well. Some even have pictures and/or sound files to help visitors understand the phenomena.

Finally, for those calendar buffs who want to explore other aspects of calendars worldwide, here is a vast collection of links to online calendar resources: ABC Calendars at http://www.abccalendars.com/. (Warning! This is a commercial web site, with links to commercial, academic, and amateur calendar-related materials.)

Summary of Categories

The following notes give an overview of the phenomena in each category and their traditional order within the category. One of the best ways to become familiar with the seasonal system of traditional Japanese poetry is to browse the list, noticing things that appear together and their order.

The Season: Includes general climatic cycles, reminders of the previous season, the solstice or equinox (that is, the middle of the season), the months, time and length of day, temperature, approaching the end of the season, anticipation of the next season.

The Heavens: Includes the sky, heavenly bodies, winds, precipitation, storms, other sky phenomena, light and shade.

The Earth: Includes land forms, seascapes, fields, forests, streams, rivers, and lakes.

Humanity: Includes clothes, food and beverages, work and school, sports, recreation, the arts, illness, travel, communications, moods.

Observances: Includes sacred and secular holidays and festivals, their associated decorations, clothes, foods, and activities, and "memorial days" (death anniversaries of literary persons). The list gives specific dates; many festivals are still celebrated according to the lunar calendar, and therefore shift in relation to our Gregorian calendar--moveable feasts. They are indicated by 'about'.

Animals: Mammals, amphibians and reptiles, birds, fishes, mollusks, and insects.

Plants: Blossoming trees, foliage of trees and shrubs, garden flowers, fruits and vegetables, wildflowers and other vegetation, seaweed, fungi.

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Searching for a Season Word or Other Things

To search, use the "find" function on your browser. Be sure to check synonyms. For example, if looking for "insect", also check "bug", even if what you found under "insect" seems satisfactory. In addition to searching for specific English or Japanese season words, one can search for terms like "late spring" to stop at each season word that fulfills that requirement.

When an item is "not found", it does not mean that the term is not a season word, but only that it is not included in this very limited list. The Nihon Dai Saijiki lists some 16,000 season words, of which this list is about one-third of one percent.

If searching for a Japanese term, use roomaji and note that all long vowels are doubled regardless of how they are spelled in kana ("ou" and "oo" in kana both = "oo" here except when the final "u" is a verb inflection; however, distinguish between "ee" and "ei"). There is no punctuation around an n in the middle of a word. Hyphens are not used around the particle no; if the word following it undergoes a sound change, the phrase is treated as a single word, as in amanogawa.

Square brackets [] include words whose meaning is understood, but which are not literally present in the Japanese.

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Why the "Part" of the Season is Important

For haiku composition, on a superficial level whether a season word refers to early, middle, or late in a given season--or to the whole season--means little; presumably a single haiku reflects the events and emotional values of a particular time. But as we connect more and more with the depths of the haiku tradition, we begin to understand that a great haiku makes use of seasonal themes in a deeper way.

Each of the more important seasonal themes--such as those listed here--has a long history of not just physical associations, but emotional tone as well. The more skilled the haiku poet, the more the poem works with or plays against these associations. A good haikai saijiki (almanac of seasonal topics and season words used in haiku and linked-poetry composition) explains these traditional associations, but that is beyond the scope of this list. For the haiku poet, this list simply represents those few seasonal topics that have deeply engaged Japanese poets for centuries, and, in some cases, for a millennium or more. Such a list can also help poets to know what to look for when they want to write a seasonal poem. In a saijiki, the systematic seasonal ordering of topics serves mainly to collect related phenomena together, and to arrange finished poems in a rational and aesthetically pleasing order. The part of the season in itself is not particularly crucial for the haiku poet, and many saijiki and kiyose (simple season word lists or guides, such as this one) omit this information.

For linked poetry composition, however, the definitions of the seasons are crucial. Not only must certain stanzas reflect specific seasons, according to the specific type of poem being written and when the linked poem is begun, but within a group of adjacent stanzas in the same season the normal order of phenomena within that season must be maintained. If the first of three autumn stanzas contains simply the word "moon", an all-autumn season word, the next stanza can fall anywhere in autumn. But should the moon verse specify "harvest moon", a mid-autumn phenomenon, then phenomena of early autumn are ruled out in the succeeding stanzas of that run. Stanzas of all autumn, mid autumn, and late autumn may be used. Then suppose the author of the second autumn stanza chooses a late autumn season word, such as "new rice". This limits the writer of the third verse in the run to season words naming either all-autumn or other late-autumn phenomena, perhaps a "goose".

In other words, within a specific seasonal run, the renku can't "back up" and use a season word from an earlier part of the season after a season word from a later part has been used.

Thus, both for maintaining the appropriate phenomena in each season, and for keeping straight the natural order of those phenomena within the season, the season word list must show both which season a given season word belongs in, and what part of that season. Therefore, the opening section of each season in this list defines the nominal periods of that season by month. (For a more precise table of the traditional seasons and their parts, see The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry.)

The seasons of traditional Japanese poetry are not the same as our common notion of each season today. Rather, as in earlier times in Europe, each season centers on its solstice or equinox. We know that the European view used to accord with the Japanese tradition because even in English today "midsummer" and "midwinter" refer to times near the solstices of their respective seasons. (The same is true of "Mittsommer" in German and its cognates in other Germanic languages; the Feast of Saint John [le Saint-Jean in French, il San Giovanni in Italian, 26 June] is understood as comparable to Midsummer's Day in England.)

If we abandon the traditional view and insist on understanding "spring" as running from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, one-third to one-half the items in the traditional seasonal arrangement will be out of place. Since the progress of a renku normally involves not only the seasons, but movement within the seasons, I believe renku poets will be best served if we adhere to the traditional arrangement, which will keep our renku in accord with all the linked poems of hundreds of years past as well as others being written today.

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In traditional temperate zone four-season calendars East and West, the equinoxes and solstices are the mid-points of the seasons. Thus, roughly,

Early Spring = Feb or Aug
Mid Spring = Mar or Sep
Late Spring = Apr or Oct.

(In each case, the first month is northern hemisphere, the second southern.) For more on the traditional orientation of the seasons, see The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry.


coming of spring (risshun, early spring).

shallow spring, barely spring (haru asashi, early spring).

returning cold (saekaeru, early spring).

still cold (yokan, early spring).

spring-like (harumeku, early spring).

bugs come out (keichitsu, mid spring). Of the earth. Note: Red Pine translates this venerable Chinese expression as "insects astir", a very worthy expression, in The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain [Han Shan] (Copper Canyon, 2000). —wjh

[spring] equinox (higan, mid spring). The J. term refers to Buddhist beliefs.

spring day (haru no hi, all spring).

spring dawn (shungyoo, all spring).

spring noontime (shunchoo, all spring).

spring evening (haru no kure, all spring).

spring night (haru no yo, all spring).

warm (atataka, all spring).

serene (uraraka, all spring).

tranquil (nodoka, all spring).

long day (hinaga, all spring).

lingering day (chijitsu, all spring).

blossom cool (hanabie, late spring). A cool spell while cherries are blooming.

deep spring (haru fukashi, late spring).

passing spring (yuku haru, late spring).


spring light (shunkoo, all spring).

spring sky (haru no sora, all spring).

spring clouds (haru no kumo, all spring).

hazy moon (oborozuki, all spring).

spring wind (haru kaze, all spring).

east wind (kochi, all spring).

first spring gust (haru ichiban, early/mid spring). Lit. spring's first. Note: Authorities disagree as to where to place this phenomenon in spring.

shining wind (kaze hikaru, all spring).

spring gust (haru hayate, all spring).

yellow dust (tsuchifuru, all spring). Blown from China.

spring rain (harusame, all spring).

light snow (awayuki, all spring).

end of snow (yuki no hate, mid spring).

last frost (wasurejimo, late spring).

spring thunder (shunrai, all spring).

haze (kasumi, all spring). For spring mist, use 'spring mist'. ('Mist' alone is autumn.)

heat shimmer / shimmering heat (kageroo, all spring). The shimmering air over a heated surface.

cloudy spring (shunin, all spring).

blossom haze (hanagumori, late spring).


spring mountains (haru no yama, all spring).

spring field (haru no no, all spring). Perhaps 'spring plain' or 'spring meadow' is a better translation.

waters of spring (haru no mizu, all spring).

waters warming (mizu nurumu, mid spring).

spring sea (haru no umi, all spring).

spring tide (shunchoo, all spring).

spring paddy fields (haru ta, all spring).

rice seedling patch (nawa shiro, late spring).

spring soil (haru no tsuchi, all spring).

spring mud (shundei, all spring).

remaining snow (zansetsu, mid spring).

avalanche (nadare, mid spring).

melting snow (yukidoke, mid spring).

melt off (yukishiro, mid spring).

thin ice (usurai, early spring).

ice floes (ryuuhyoo, mid spring).


spring lantern (shuntoo, all spring).

burning the hills (yama yaki, early spring).

plow (tagaeshi, all spring).

tilling a paddy (tauchi, late spring).

tilling a field (hatauchi, all spring).

sowing, planting seed (tanemaki, late spring).

tea picking (chatsumi, late spring).

beach combing (shiohigari, late spring). At low tide.

herb gathering (tsumikusa, all spring).

kite (tako, all spring). The toy.

balloon (fuusen, all spring).

pinwheel (kazaguruma, all spring).

soap bubbles (shabondama, all spring).

swing (buranko, all spring).

spring slug-abed (shunmin, all spring).

spring melancholy (shunshuu, all spring).


first [day of the] horse (hatsu uma, early spring). A shrine festival. According to the old Chinese calendar system using the twelve signs.

Doll Festival (hina matsuri, early/mid spring). 3 March. Note: Some authorities see all of March as mid spring, others adhere to the traditional season-part dates, which have mid spring not starting until 6 March.

Nirvana Ceremony (nehane, mid spring). Buddha's nirvana anniversary, about 15 Mar.

pilgrimage (henro, all spring). When many Japanese visit sacred places. The best known involves walking the circumference of the island of Shikoku, visiting 88 temples.

Buddha's Birthday (busshooe, late spring). Apr 8.

Saigyo's Memorial Day (saigyooki, mid spring). About 10 Mar. The Japanese celebrate the death anniversaries of important persons.


colt, pony (wakagoma, late spring).

cats in love (neko no koi, early spring).

tadpoles (otamajakushi, late spring).

frog (kawazu, all spring).

many baby birds (momochidori, all spring). Noticed for their cheeping.

bush warbler (uguisu, all spring).

pheasant (kiji, all spring).

skylark (hibari, all spring).

swallow (tsubame, mid spring).

departing geese (kigan, mid spring). Leaving Japan to return to breeding grounds in the north. Sometimes misleadingly translated as 'returning geese'.

departing ducks (hikigamo, mid spring). (See note on 'departing geese'.)

birds enter clouds (tori kumo ni iru, mid spring).

twittering (saezuri, all spring). Of birds.

red sea bream / red snapper (sakuradai, late spring).

whitebait (shirauo, early spring).

rising carp (nokkomi buna, late spring).

young sweetfish (waka ayu, late spring). A small, trout-like freshwater fish, a delicacy.

cherrystone clam (hamaguri, all spring).

butterfly (choo, all spring).

silkworms (kaiko, late spring).


Note: Traditionally, a renku "blossom verse" is required to include either the word "blossoms" (hana in Japanese) without naming the type (always considered to mean "cherry blossoms") or the term "cherry blossoms" (in Japanese, sakura by itself is enough). Today, many non-Japanese renku people accept all terms here including the word "blossoms*"—and other spring-blossoming ornamentals, such as "apricot blossoms", "apple blossoms", and so on. —wjh

plum (blossoms*) (ume, early spring).

red plum (blossoms*) (kobai, early spring).

camellia (tsubaki, all spring).

first [cherry] blossoms* (hatsu hana, mid spring).

cherry [blossoms*] (sakura, late spring).

[cherry] blossoms* (hana, late spring).

late cherry [blossoms*] (osozakura, late spring).

remaining [cherry] blossoms* (zanka, late spring).

azalea (tsutsuji, late spring).

wisteria (fuji, late spring).

wild rose (yamabuki, late spring). Lit. 'mountain rose'. The Japanese variety is yellow.

peach blossoms* (momo no hana, late spring).

tree buds (ko no me, mid spring).

young green [plants] (wakamidori, late spring).

mulberry (kuwa, late spring).

willow (yanagi, late spring).

willow fluff (ryuujo, mid spring).

bamboo autumn (take no aki, late spring). Bamb leaves yellow in mid-to-late spring.

mustard flower (na no hana, late spring). A North American equivalent for the Japanese rape flower.

Japanese-radish flower (daikon no hana, late spring).

bean flower (mame no hana, late spring).

green barley (aomugi, all spring).

spring grasses [and forbs] (haru no kusa, all spring). The Japanese kusa, usually translated as 'grass' or 'grasses', actually refers to a wide variety of grasses and other non-woody wild plants.

sprouting grasses [and forbs] (shitamoe, early spring).

sprouts (kusa no me, early spring). Of wildflowers and grasses.

young grasses [and forbs] (wakakusa, late spring).

violet (sumire, all spring).

vetch (genge, late spring).

dandelion (tanpopo, all spring).

horsetail (tsukushi, mid spring).

primrose (sakurasoo, late spring).

fiddlehead (warabi, mid spring). A fern.

dropwart (seri, all spring). Japanese parsley.

spring orchid (shunran, mid spring).

mugwort (yomogi, all spring).

reed ears (tsubana, mid spring). The open seed clusters of reeds.

waterweeds grow (mikusa ou, mid spring).

reed sprouts (ashi no tsuno, mid spring). Lit. 'horns'.

wakame (wakame, all spring). A kind of seaweed.

nori (nori, early spring). A kind of seaweed.

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In traditional temperate zone four-season calendars East and West, the equinoxes and solstices are the mid-points of the seasons. Thus, roughly,

Early Summer = May or Nov
Mid Summer = Jun or Dec
Late Summer = Jul or Jan

(In each case, the first month is northern hemisphere, the second southern.) For more on the traditional orientation of the seasons, see The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry.


summer-like (natsumeku, early summer).

barley autumn (mugi no aki, early summer). The time when barley ripens.

short night (mijikayo, all summer).

hot (atsushi, all summer).

smoldering [hot] (moyuru, late summer).

burning [hot] (yakuru, late summer).

cool (suzushi, all summer). Associated with evening in Japanese tradition.

autumn near (aki chikashi, late summer).

night autumnal (yoru no aki, late summer).


cloud peaks (kumo no mine, all summer).

summer moon (natsu no tsuki, all summer).

south wind (minami, all summer).

wind in the verdure (aoarashi, all summer).

fragrant breeze (kunpuu, all summer).

evening lull (yuunagi, late summer). At the seaside.

rainy season (tsuyu, mid summer). Lit. 'plum rain'.

midsummer rain (samidare, mid summer). The Japanese says 'Fifth Month rain', based on the lunar calendar. Rather than translate 'Fifth Month' as May, since the Gregorian month is really June, we use the traditional English word for the period, which is near the summer solstice.

evening downpour (yuudachi, all summer).

rainbow (niji, all summer).

thunder (kaminari, all summer).

midsummer darkness (satsuki yami, mid summer). Lit. 'fifth-month darkness', referring to the lunar calendar.

morning cloudiness (asagumori, late summer). Suggests gloominess; we might say 'morning overcast'.

afterglow (yuuyake, late summer). Lit. 'burnt evening'.

heat at zenith (hizakari, late summer).

shady side (katakage, late summer).

drought (hideri, late summer).


summer meadow (natsuno, all summer).

green paddy (aota, late summer).

fountainhead, wellspring (izumi, all summer). 'Spring' is sufficient, if context indicates the object, not the season.

clear [spring-] water (shimizu, all summer).

dripping [spring-water] (shitatari, all summer).

waterfall (taki, all summer).


switching clothes (koromogae, early summer). Refers to the old custom of starting to wear summer clothes on the first of the fourth lunar month (about 6 May [corresponds to 7 Nov, southern hemisphere]).

one-layered [kimono] (hitoe, all summer).

thin clothes (usumono, late summer).

summer kimono (yukata, all summer). A light cotton kimono.

new tea (shincha, early summer).

straw mats (takamushiro, all summer). Thin, woven mat.

green bamboo blind (aosudare, all summer).

airing [clothes, bedding, etc.] (mushiboshi, late summer). Lit. 'drying bugs'. After the Japanese rainy season, airing of clothes, bedding, even books, is necessary to avoid mildew and, in the old days, to get rid of insects.

sitz bath (gyoozui, late summer). Formerly this implied in a portable tub.

rice planting (taue, mid summer).

cutting grasses [and forbs] (kusakari, all summer). For hay or mulch.

[silk worm] cocoon (mayu, early summer).

cormorant fishing (ukai, all summer).

weir (yana, all summer). Type of fishing net placed across a stream.

cooling off (suzumi, late summer). Of people.

swimming (oyogi, all summer).

fireworks (hanabi, late summer).

cooling on the porch (hashi-i, all summer). Of people.


Boy's Day (tango, early summer). May 5.

festival (matsuri, all summer). Most Japanese cities have festivals sometime during the summer, including Shinto observances, a parade with floats, and entertainment.

Kanda Festival (kanda matsuri, early summer). Tokyo, 15-18 May.

Gion Festival (gione, late summer). Kyoto, 17-24 July.

Tenma Festival (tenma matsuri, late summer). Osaka, 25 July.

half-year's end festival (nagoshi, late summer). Lunar 'summer's end'. Last day of June or July, depending on location.


fawn (kanoko, all summer).

river frog (kajika, all summer). Lit. 'river deer'.

little cuckoo (hototogisu, all summer). The word is onomatopoetic for the bird's call. Shiki's penname is a Sinicized version of hototogisu.

old bush warbler (oiuguisu, all summer). 'Old' as in summer, opposed to the younger bush warbler of spring.

kingfisher (kawasemi, all summer).

water rail (kuina, all summer). Also known as 'crake' in English.

sweetfish (ayu, all summer). A small fresh-water fish, a delicacy on the order of trout, which is sometimes used as a translation.

first bonito (hatsugatsuo, early summer). First of the season.

eel (hamo, all summer). Name in a saltwater environment.

moth (ga, all summer).

firefly, lightning bug (hotaru, mid summer).

cicada (semi, late summer).

cicada shell (utsusemi, late summer).

fly (hae, all summer).

mosquito (ka, all summer).

ant (ari, all summer).


summer [cherry] blossoms (yoka, early summer).

leafing cherry [tree] (hazakura, early summer).

peony (botan, early summer).

mandarin orange blossoms (hana tachibana, mid summer).

green plum (aoume, mid summer). The fruit.

summer grove (natsu kodachi, all summer).

trees newly green (shinju, early summer).

young leaves (wakaba, early summer).

green leaves (aoba, all summer).

luxurance (shigeri, all summer). Of foliage.

myriad green [leaves] (banryoku, all summer).

shade of a tree (konoshita yami, all summer).

green leaf shade (ryokuin, all summer).

young maple [leaves] (waka kaede, early summer).

blighted leaves (wakuraba, all summer).

fallen evergreen leaves (tokiwagi ochiba, early summer).

deutzia flower (u no hana, early summer).

multiflora [rose] blossom (ibara no hana, early summer).

pawlonia flower (kiri no hana, early summer).

phoenix tree [blossoms] (aogiri, all summer). Firmiana plantanifolia. Also called Chinese parasol tree.

fallen bamboo leaves (take ochiba, early summer).

blue flag (kakitsubata, mid summer). A type of iris, sometimes called 'rabbit-ear iris' in North America.

wild iris (ayame, mid summer).

Japanese iris (shoobu, mid summer).

sunflower (himawari, late summer).

pinks (nadeshiko, late summer).

lily (yuri, early summer).

moon flower (yuugao, late summer). Sometimes called 'evening glory'; name of a character in Tale of Genji.

bamboo shoots (takenoko, early summer).

butterburr, bog rhubarb (fuki, early summer).

melon (uri, late summer).

eggplant (nasu, late summer).

lotus (hasu, late summer). The plant.

barley (mugi, early summer).

young rice plants (sanae, mid summer).

summer grasses [and forbs] (natsu kusa, all summer). This is the 'natsugusa' of Bash?'s famous poem. Not just 'grass'.

rank weeds (kusa ikire, late summer). Refers to the oppressive smell.

green reeds (aoashi, all summer).

burweed, cleavers (mugura, all summer).

water oats (makomo, all summer).

duckweed (ukikusa, all summer).

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In traditional temperate zone four-season calendars East and West, the equinoxes and solstices are the mid-points of the seasons. Thus, roughly,

Early Autumn = Aug or Feb
Mid Autumn = Sep or Mar
Late Autumn = Oct or Apr

(In each case, the first month is northern hemisphere, the second southern.) For more on the traditional orientation of the seasons, see The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry.


coming of autumn (risshuu, early autumn).

remaining heat (zansho, early autumn).

new coolness (shinryoo, early autumn).

autumn day (aki no hi, all autumn).

autumn dusk (aki no kure, all autumn). The same Japanese phrase, aki no kure, can also mean 'the close of autumn', in which case it would be a late autumn season word.

long night (yonaga, all autumn).

autumn is clearing (aki sumu, all autumn). Refers to the clearing autumn sky.

autumn air (shuuki, all autumn).

refreshing (sawayaka, all autumn).

chilly (hiyayaka, mid autumn).

soak to the bone (mi ni shimu, all autumn). Sometimes translated as 'pierce to the bone', but the sensation is one of being soaked, as indicated by the etymnology of the verb. Colloquially, the phrase means felt to (or from) the bottom of the heart.

a little cold (yaya samu, late autumn).

morning cold (asa samu, late autumn).

night chill (yosamu, late autumn).

desolate (susamaji, late autumn).

autumn deepens, autumn is deep (aki fukashi, late autumn).

fleeting autumn (yuku aki, late autumn).


autumn color (shuushoku, all autumn). Coloration of the atmosphere from autumn foliage.

autumnal clear day (akibare, all autumn).

autumn's voice (aki no koe, all autumn). That is, the sounds of autumn: wind in dry leaves, insects, etc.

autumn sky (aki no sora, all autumn). Particularly for the intensity of its blue.

mackerel clouds (iwashigumo, all autumn).

moon (tsuki, all autumn).

waiting evening (matsu yoi, mid autumn). The night before the harvest moon.

bright moon, harvest moon (meigetsu, mid autumn). Full moon of September, corresponding to the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month.

sixteenth night (izayoi, mid autumn). Of the eighth lunar month, i.e., the next night after the harvest moon.

next full moon (nochi no tsuki, late autumn). After the harvest moon.

Milky Way (amanogawa, early autumn). Lit. 'River of Heaven'.

autumn wind (aki kaze, all autumn).

first (autumn) storm (hatsu arashi, early autumn).

windstorm (nowaki, mid autumn). Lit. 'field-divider'.

autumn rain (aki no ame, all autumn).

lightning (inazuma, all autumn). Lightning at other seasons is 'spring lightning', etc.

fog (kiri, all autumn).

dew (tsuyu, all autumn). Not to be confused with summer season word 'tsuyu', rainy season.

dew chill (tsuyuzamu, late autumn).

dew frost (tsuyujimo, late autumn).


flower garden (hanazono, all autumn).

flowery field (hanano, all autumn). 'Flowering meadow' gives a better sense of it.

autumn paddy (aki no ta, all autumn).

waters of autumn (aki no mizu, all autumn). The clear waters of autumn, no longer muddied by summer rains.

first [autumnal] tide (hatsu shio, mid autumn). High tide associated with the harvest moon.


new soba (shin soba, late autumn). First buckwheat noodles from the new crop.

new rice (shinmai, late autumn). The first rice harvested this year.

autumn lamplight (aki no hi, all autumn).

lantern (tooroo, early autumn). Usually in a garden, and made of stone or bronze.

scarecrow (kakashi, all autumn).

rice cutting, rice harvest (inekari, late autumn).

new straw (shin wara, late autumn).

straw bundles, haystacks (warazuka, late autumn).

fulling blocks (kinuta, all autumn). Mallets used to pound fullers earth through cloth in a traditional dry cleaning process. The sound of fulling blocks was typical of an autumn evening in old Japan.

reed cutting (ashikari, late autumn).

sumo wrestling (sumoo, early autumn).

autumn contemplation (shuushi, all autumn).


Chrysanthemum Festival (chooyoo, late autumn). Ninth day of the ninth lunar month, about mid October.

Tanabata (tanabata, early autumn). Weaver Star Festival, 7th of seventh lunar month, i.e., in our August; sometimes celebrated on our 7 July.

Bon Festival (bon, early autumn). Festival of Returning Spirits, 13-16 Aug, on which Japanese are pleased to welcome the spirits of their dead ancesters home for a day or two.

dance (odori, early autumn). At Bon Festival.


deer (shika, all autumn). Refers mainly to the mating calls of the small 'sika deer' (English) native to East Asia. (Other deer mate at various times.)

migrating birds (wataridori, all autumn). Japan is the winter home of many birds from the north, and the summer home of others from the south. In autumn the skies fill with birds going one way or the other.

rice sparrows (inesuzume, all autumn). Come to glean the rice left over from the harvest.

shrike (mozu, all autumn).

wagtail (sekirei, all autumn).

quail (uzura, all autumn).

sand piper, snipe (shigi, all autumn). Both are members of the same taxonomic family.

goose (kari, late autumn). See 'returning geese' (kigan), spring.

falling sweetfish (ochiayu, all autumn). Coming downstream; see sweetfish (ayu), summer.

sea bass (suzuki, all autumn).

goby (haze, all autumn).

sardines (iwashi, all autumn).

mackerel pike (sanma, late autumn). Coloabis saira.

salmon (sake, all autumn).

evening clear cicada (higurashi, early autumn). Lit. 'day darkener'.

tsukutsukubooshi (tsukutsukubooshi, early autumn). A small cicada; the name is onomatopoetic for its cry and includes the word for 'priest'. Meimuna opalifera.

dragonfly (tonbo, all autumn).

insects, bugs (mushi, all autumn). Many named insects are found in summer; this refers mainly to insect sounds.

cricket (koorogi, all autumn). See also favorite named crickets, below.

bell cricket (suzumushi, early autumn). Homoeogryllus japonicus.

pine cricket (matsumushi, early autumn). Madasumma marmorata.

katydid (kirigirisu, early autumn). Platyphyllum concavum.

worms cry (mimizu naku, all autumn). Early Japanese poets invented the literary fiction that the small 'ji--' sounds of the autumn night were the cries of worms.


rose of sharon (mukuge, early autumn).

peach (momo no mi, early autumn). The fruit.

pear (nashi, all autumn).

persimmon (kaki, late autumn).

apple (ringo, late autumn).

grapes (budoo, all autumn). Authorities differ widely on time, some indicating early autumn, some late, some all.

chestnuts (kuri, late autumn).

citron (yuzu, late autumn).

red leaves (momiji, late autumn). Specifically, the red-turned leaves of maples.

maple (kaede, late autumn). Refers to the leaves, when they have turned color.

one pawlonia leaf (kiri hitoha, early autumn). Pawlonia, also known in English as 'Empress Tree'. Famous for the sound of the fall of one of its large leaves, a classic symbol of autumn's arrival.

willow leaves fall (yanagi chiru, mid autumn).

nuts and seeds (ko no mi, all autumn). Lit. 'fruits of trees'; includes nuts, pods, etc.

Japanese ivy (tsuta, all autumn). Its leaves turn red.

banana plant (bashoo, all autumn). From which the poet Bashô took his name. Also called a plantain (unrelated to the plantains of N. America), produces inedible fruit. A poetical subject because of the sound of its broad, fragile leaves in the autumn wind and rain.

tattered bashoo (yare bashoo, late autumn). Well known for large, fragile leaves which tear in the wind.

orchids (ran, mid autumn).

morning-glory (asagao, early autumn).

cock's comb (keitoo, all autumn).

chrysanthemums (kiku, all autumn).

potato (imo, all autumn).

rice plants (ine, all autumn). Refers to mature plants.

early rice (wase, mid autumn).

fallen ears (ochibo, late autumn). Of rice.

tattered lotus (yarehasu, late autumn). See 'lotus' (hasu) in summer.

grasses [and forbs] in bloom (kusa no hana, all autumn). Frequently translated as 'grass blossoms', but includes many other flowering plants.

seeds of grasses [and forbs] (kusa no mi, all autumn). As with kusa no hana, refers to more than grasses.

withered tips (uragare, late autumn). The frosted tips of plants and trees.

bush clover (hagi, early autumn).

pampas grass (susuki, all autumn). For the waving silvery fronds.

wind in the reeds (ogi no koe, early autumn). Lit. 'voice of the reeds'.

kudzu flowers (kuzu no hana, early autumn).

bell flower, Chinese balloon flower (kikyoo, early autumn). Platycodon grandiflorum. Low-growing plant with moderate-sized, blue flowers.

yellow valerian (ominaeshi, early autumn). Lit. 'maiden flower'.

knotgrass (aka no manma, early autumn). Polygonum blumei.

mushrooms, fungus (kinoko, late autumn).

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In traditional temperate zone four-season calendars East and West, the equinoxes and solstices are the mid-points of the seasons. Thus, roughly,

Early Winter = Nov or May
Mid Winter = Dec or Jun
Late Winter = Jan or Jul

(In each case, the first month is northern hemisphere, the second southern.) For more on the traditional orientation of the seasons, see The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry.


winter withering (fuyuzare, all winter).

Indian summer (koharu, early winter). Lit. 'little spring'.

close of the year (toshi no kure, mid winter).

the passing year (yuku toshi, mid winter).

New Year's Eve (toshi no yo, mid winter). Lit. year-night.

the cold time (kan no uchi, late winter).

short day (tanjitsu, all winter).

winter night (fuyu no yo, all winter).

cold (tsumetashi, all winter). Of things.

cold (samushi, all winter). Of weather, air, etc.

clear and cold (sayuru, all winter).

freeze (itsuru, all winter).

nearly spring (haru chikashi, late winter).

Setsubun (setsubun, late winter). The last day of winter. Features ritualistic chasing of devils out of the house, allowing good luck for the spring (the traditional New Year). Compare the English ritual of opening front and back doors. (Some authorities place Setsubun in the 'Observances' category.)


clear winter day (fuyubare, all winter).

winter moon (fuyu no tsuki, all winter).

withering wind (kogarashi, early winter). Lit. tree-witherer.

north wind (kita, all winter).

winter shower (shigure, early winter).

winter rain (fuyu no ame, all winter).

snow pellets (arare, all winter).

sleet (mizore, all winter).

frost (shimo, all winter).

first snow (hatsuyuki, mid winter).

snow (yuki, late winter).

snowflakes (kazahana, late winter). Lit. wind-flowers.


winter mountains (fuyu no yama, all winter).

withered field (kareno, all winter).

winter paddy (fuyuta, all winter).

water dried up (mizu karu, all winter).

ice (koori, late winter).

icicles (tsurara, late winter).


quilt (futon, all winter). Japanese-style, refers to a pair of quilts placed on the floor for sleeping, the thicker one underneath.

porridge (zoosui, all winter).

winter seclusion (fuyugomori, all winter).

charcoal (sumi, all winter).

fireplace (ro, all winter).

small brazier (hibachi, all winter).

hunting (kari, all winter).

wicker fishnet (ajiro, all winter).

bonfire (takibi, all winter).

searching for plum blossoms (tanbai, late winter).

stilts (takeuma, all winter2). The toy; lit. bamboo horse.

New Year's Eve party (toshi wasure, mid winter). Lit. forgetting the year.


year market (toshi no ichi, mid winter). Market set up mid-Dec specifically to sell New Year's decorations, toys, and related items. Somewhat like a Christmas-tree lot, but broader in scope.

Bashô's Memorial Day (bashooki, early winter). Day 12 of the 10th lunar month, 28 Nov 1694 Gregorian.

Buson's Memorial Day (busonki, late winter). Day 25 of the 12th lunar month, 17 Jan 1784 Gregorian.


hawk (taka, all winter).

cold sparrows (kansuzume, late winter).

cold crow (kangarasu, late winter). Used equally for ravens.

waterfowl (mizutori, all winter).

wild ducks (kamo, all winter).

mandarin ducks (oshidori, all winter).

plovers, sand pipers (chidori, all winter).

grebe (kaitsuburi, all winter).

yellowtail (buri, all winter). Seliola quinqueradiata.

blowfish (fugu, all winter).

cold [golden] carp (kangoi, late winter).

cold silver carp (kanbuna, late winter).

sea cucumber (namako, all winter).

oysters (kaki, all winter).

winter fly (fuyu no hae, all winter).

bed bugs (watamushi, early winter).


early plum [blossoms] (soobai, late winter).

flowers out of season (kaeribana, early winter). Lit. 'returning flowers'.

winter camellia (kantsubaki, late winter).

sasanqua (sazanka, early winter).

tea flowers (cha no hana, early winter).

hermit smartweed (senryoo, all winter). A literal translation; for its red berries.

spearflower (manryoo, all winter). For its red berries.

nandin berries (nanten no mi, all winter). Which are red.

tree leaves (ko no ha, all winter). Falling or fallen.

fallen leaves (ochiba, all winter).

winter grove (fuyu kodachi, all winter).

cold mums (kangiku, all winter).

narcissus (suisen, late winter).

withered mums (karegiku, all winter).

withered lotus (karehasu, all winter).

winter greens (fuyuna, all winter).

onion (negi, all winter).

Japanese radish (daikon, all winter).

turnip (kabu, all winter).

winter grasses [and forbs] (fuyu kusa, all winter). Often translated 'winter grass', but has a much broader meaning.

withered reeds (kareashi, all winter).

withered pampas grass (kareobana, all winter).

withered burweed (karemugura, all winter).

spearflower (yabukooji, all winter). Another species, also for its red berries.

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In the old lunar calendar, the 1st day of the 1st month coincided roughly with the beginning of spring, and hence the New Year's celebrations and observances took place during the first two weeks of spring. Many season words today still carry both meanings for traditionalists. But with the adoption of the Gregorian commercial calendar in 1873, the haikai community decided on a compromise: Season words specific to celebrating the New Year moved into a special "fifth season" (roughly equivalent to 1-15 Jan), and those that pertained to early spring (roughly, Feb) stayed in early spring. However, a number of season words incorporating the word "spring" remain in the New Year section of the season word list because they were so indelibly imbedded in the New Year tradition.


New Year (shinnen, New Year).

beginning of spring (hatsuharu, New Year). In the old calendar spring began on or near lunar New Year's Day (currently celebrated in many places as "Chinese New Year".).

last year (kozo, New Year).

first day (ganjitsu, New Year). Of the New Year.

Little New Year (koshoogatsu, New Year). In the lunar calendar, the fifteenth of the first lunar month is the night of the first full moon of the year, hence 'Little New Year'. Still observed on modern 15 Jan by some as the end of the New Year's holiday.


first sun (hatsuhi, New Year).

first sky (hatsuzora, New Year).

first calm (hatsunagi, New Year).


first [Mt.] Fuji (hatsufuji, New Year).


spring kimono (harugi, New Year).

mulled rice wine (toso, New Year).

zooni (zooni, New Year). A vegetable soup specific to New Year's celebrations.

pine decorations (kadomatsu, New Year). Lit. gate-pines (usually in pairs on either side of an entrance).

sacred rope (shimekazari, New Year). A Shinto altarpiece or household shrine decoration associated with the New Year.

Isle of the Blessed (hoorai, New Year). A Chinese mythological equivalent for the Western Elysian Fields.

mirror rice cakes (kagamimochi, New Year). A Shinto offering for the New Year; the mirror-shape is associated with the Sun Goddess, the mythological ancestor of the Japanese islands and people.

take down pine (decorations) (matsu osame, New Year).

first bath (hatsuyu, New Year).

first dream (hatsuyume, New Year).

New Year's visits (nenshi, New Year).

New Year's money (toshidama, New Year). Gifts to children, like 'Christmas money'.

first greeting (cards) (hatsudayori, New Year). At New Year's time.

first calligraphy (kakizome, New Year).

first market (hatsuichi, New Year).

first load (hatsuni, New Year). Of beasts of burden, carts, boats, trucks, etc.

first purchase (kaizome, New Year).

card games (karuta, New Year). Especially for and popular at New Year's time; usually refers to the 'poem cards' based on the Hyakunin isshu, an anthology of 100 classical tanka poem.

battledore and shuttlecock (hagoita, New Year). A girls' game traditionally played at New Year's.

hand balls (temari, New Year). Colorful string balls; typical of a New Year's game. (Not to be confused with the Western game of handball.)

sacred arrow (hamayumi, New Year). A good luck charm from a Shinto shrine.

street comedians (manzai, New Year). A comedian and his straight man.

lion dance (shishimai, New Year). A ritual pageant.


first water (wakamizu, New Year). Lit. 'young water'; first water drawn on New Year's Day.

seven herbs (nanakusa, New Year). Medicinal, traditionally eaten on 7 Jan to promote health in the coming year.

picking young greens (wakanatsumi, New Year). One of the oldest Japanese traditions, recorded in the earliest literature. Retains its meaning today, even though the New Year and beginning of spring no longer coincide. The 'greens' are the 'seven herbs', above.

burning ornaments (sagichoo, New Year). New Year's ornaments, on 15 Jan.

servants' day (yabuiri, New Year). Lit. 'into the thicket'; on 16 Jan servants visit their old homes.

first visit (hatsumde, New Year). To shrine or temple; 1 Jan.


first sparrows [twittering] (hatsusuzume, New Year).

first raven [cry] (hatsugarasu, New Year). Applies equally to crows.

first rooster [crowing] (hatsutori, New Year).


ferns (shida, New Year).

yuzuriha (yuzuriha, New Year). A broad-leaved evergreen.

seagrape (hodawara, New Year). A seaweed.

pheasant's eye (fukujusoo, New Year).

shepherd's purse (nazuna, New Year).

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While working on the Nihon Dai Saijiki, Prof. Kenkichi Yamamoto selected 500 season words (out of the 16,000 included) as the 'Essential Season Words'. For each of these, he wrote the main entry, describing in detail their origins and histories in the tradition. Later, he collected these same season words for the Kihon Kigo 500-Sen ('The Essential Kigo--500 Selections', 1986), which has become a classic.

The list on this web page, originally recorded from Prof. Yamamoto's essential 500 and translated by Kris Young Kondo with the help of Mami Orihara and William J. Higginson, was first created for and used by the non-Japanese participants in the Renku North America events of 1992. It has since been used by many people writing renku in English, and as an aid to translators working on haikai and other traditional Japanese literature.

This version has been carefully proofed against the Nihon Dai Saijiki, with corrections, notes, and supporting matter provided by WJH. (From time to time, I have added additional notes, marked with "—wjh".)

The list contains many terms specific to Japanese culture, and we hope it will assist translators in their efforts to understand—and perhaps even somewhat standardize—their translations of season words.

While the specificity of the Japanese cultural references for some of these season words will not greatly aid those composing renku in English, we hope that including the parts of the seasons will make up for other deficiencies. We expect that this list will become the nucleus of a much larger list, to be built up over the next few years, including more Japanese season words and new season words from other climates and cultures. (Higginson will gradually add season words from Haiku World and other resources into that new list.)

To Propose an Addition to a New Season Word Guide

To the end of creating a genuinely useful and comprehensive online season guide in English, I invite poets to send their suggestions for season words to be added to the list above. These may be either recognized season words discovered in one's reading, or new season words specific to one's experience and writing. Note that any suggested season word MUST be accompanied by a poem including that word or phrase.

If you wish to suggest season words for addition, please include all of the following information:

1. The season word, with any known variants you wish to add (for plants and animals, please include the scientific [Latin] name, if known), plus particulars as to when and where it seems applicable. Please express time in months of the Gregorian year. (I will make the conversion into the traditional haikai calendar.) If it is a cultural phenomenon, indicate what cultural group and its geographical area; if it seems warranted, describe the phenomenon. If a natural phenomenon, indicate exactly what it is and how it is seasonal, as well as its region.

2. A haikai verse (haiku, senryu, or stanza from a linked poem) containing the season word, with the name of the author.

3. Full particulars as to the source of the poem:

a. If it is a verse discovered in your reading, please give complete publication information, including full author, title, and date of the work and the publisher's complete contact information. For online publications, supply the complete URL where you found it and the date on which you accessed that URL.

b. If it is a verse you wrote, please include your full name, address, phone number, and fax number and e-mail address, if available. Unpublished work must be submitted by the author, and by submitting the work the author agrees to grant non-exclusive world rights in all languages to William J. Higginson and his co-authors for the verse's publication on Internet web pages and in books, without fee, so long as the author is credited. ("Non-exclusive world rights" means that I may publish your submitted work, but that does not prevent you from publishing it any time, anywhere, yourself, or from granting others the right to do so.)

Send your proposed new season words, poems, sources, and contact information to:

William J. Higginson
P. O. Box 1402
Summit, NJ  07902 USA
fax 1-980-273-7170 (automatic)

or send an e-mail to wordfield-at-att-dot-net, replacing "-at-" with "@" and "-dot-" with a period.

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This page first posted 27 October 2000 and last updated 5 May 2005 (recent updates include a number of small corrections and refinements to the translations of individual season words).

Copyright © 1992, 2000, 2001, 2005 Kris Young Kondo and William J. Higginson. All rights reserved.
Single printed hardcopies of this document may be made for use at a renku session, or by participants in online renku composition. Do not forward this web page via e-mail; rather, supply the URL: <http://renku.home.att.net/500ESWd.html>. For permission to reproduce this material by any other means or for any other purpose, please contact William J. Higginson, as above.