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The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry

William J. Higginson
Seasonal Period Name
(equinox/solstice date)*
Gregorian Calendar Dates (nominal months) Lunar Calendar Months (approximate)**
New Year***
1 – 15 January 1st half of 1st month

~ 21 Mar)

early 4 Feb – 5 Mar (Feb) 1st: Sociable Month (mutsuki)
mid 6 Mar – 4 Apr (Mar) 2nd: More-Clothes (kisaragi)
late 5 Apr – 5 May (Apr) 3rd: Growth (yayoi)
~ 21 Jun)
early 6 May – 5 Jun (May) 4th: Deutzia Month (uzuki)
mid 6 Jun – 6 Jul (Jun) 5th: Swamp Month (satsuki)
late 7 Jul – 7 Aug (Jul) 6th: Waterless Month (minazuki)
~ 21 Sep)
early 8 Aug – 7 Sep (Aug) 7th: Literary Month (fumizuki)
mid 8 Sep – 7 Oct (Sep) 8th: Leaf Month (hazuki)
late 8 Oct – 6 Nov (Oct) 9th: Long Month (nagatsuki)
~ 21 Dec)
early 7 Nov – 6 Dec (Nov) 10th: Godless Month (kannazuki)
mid 7 Dec – 4 Jan (Dec) 11th: Frost Month (shimotsuki)
late 5 Jan – 3 Feb (Jan) 12th: Rushing About (shiwasu)

* In the East Asian traditional calendar, the equinoxes and solstices center their respective seasons; thus, each season begins about six weeks earlier than our present common notion of the seasons. Also, the exact dates of equinoxes and solstices may vary by one day or so in a given year, and the beginning and end dates of each of the parts of seasons in the traditional Japanese calendar may also.

** Since lunar months and solar years do not contain the same numbers of days, the beginning of each lunar month varies in relation to the seasons from year to year. To somewhat coordinate the lunar calendar with the seasonal cycle (the solar year), a "leap month" may be added to the year. Such an intercalary month may be an "extra 10th month", for example, and is part of the relevant season indicated above. (Fuller explanations of lunar calendars may be found on other web sites.) Note too that the Japanese names for the lunar months listed here are only some of the more popular literary names. Most lunar months have at least two or three names.

*** The New Year was formerly about the first half of the first month of spring, and many phenomena of early spring were associated with it. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, Japanese traditionalists compromised and moved the New Year to coincide with the beginning of January. "Spring", however, did not move, although some older spring seasonal topics are still associated with the New Year.

More information on this topic can be found in my book, The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World, published by Kodansha International, 1996.

Copyright © William J. Higginson 1996, 2000, 2007. All rights reserved.

Page first posted 25 May 2000, last updated 19 April 2007.

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