Japan’s 72 gossamer-light and poetic microseasons

Ryoan-Ji zen garden in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Content Catnip 2018 www.contentcatnip.com

The traditional seasons in Japan are marked out by impercetibly small changes in nature across 72 miniature seasons in a year, each lasting 5 days and reflecting the fleeting, impermanent and diaphanous beauty of nature and all of its wonders.

There are 24 divisions or sekki in the calendar that are split into 72 kō that last around five days each. Originating from China, the calendar was brought to Japan in 1685 by court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai.

I think this is a far more comprehensive, meaningful and meditative way to understand the world. I don’t know how this calendar isn’t more widely used throughout the world. The calendar gives you a way to cultivate mindfulness by giving you a focal point for attention during each of the five day spans and mini seasons. I can see the clear complement to the practice of Zen Buddhism and all of zen philosophy.

I only wish that the dates were around the other way to represent what goes on in the southern hemisphere where I am! I guess I will need to do that then!

These lyrical and grounding mini-seasons takes me out of my own head and into the blooming and subsiding of life throughout the year. It’s here to remind us of the fragility and beautiful impermanence of all life. If you would like to keep the 72 seasons with you all the time, you can get this app for your phone or tablet – or you could go outside, that also works 🙂

立春 Risshun (Beginning of spring)

Waldorf Germany during spring. Source: Reddit

February 4–8 東風解凍
Harukaze kōri o toku East wind melts the ice

February 9–13 黄鶯睍睆
Kōō kenkan su Bush warblers start singing in the mountains

February 14–18 魚上氷
Uo kōri o izuru Fish emerge from the ice

雨水 Usui (Rainwater)

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
Across the water looking forwards Dunvegan castle from Borerraig at the north western tip of the Isle of Skye. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

February 19–23 土脉潤起
Tsuchi no shō uruoi okoru Rain moistens the soil

February 24–28 霞始靆
Kasumi hajimete tanabiku Mist starts to linger

March 1–5 草木萌動
Sōmoku mebae izuru Grass sprouts, trees bud

啓蟄 Keichitsu (Insects awaken)

Source: Pixabay

March 6–10 蟄虫啓戸
Sugomori mushito o hiraku Hibernating insects surface

March 11–15 桃始笑
Momo hajimete saku First peach blossoms

March 16–20 菜虫化蝶
Namushi chō to naru Caterpillars become butterflies

春分 Shunbun (Spring equinox)

Mount Shuksan from Picture Lake - Washington Source: Reddit
Mount Shuksan from Picture Lake – Washington Source: Reddit

March 21–25 雀始巣
Suzume hajimete sukū Sparrows start to nest

March 26–30 櫻始開
Sakura hajimete saku First cherry blossoms

March 31–April 4 雷乃発声
Kaminari sunawachi koe o hassu Distant thunder

清明 Seimei (Pure and clear)

The night sky above Mt Ranier on a clear night. Source: Reddit
The night sky above Mt Ranier on a clear night. Source: Reddit

April 5–9 玄鳥至
Tsubame kitaru Swallows return

April 10–14 鴻雁北
Kōgan kaeru Wild geese fly north

April 15–19 虹始見
Niji hajimete arawaru First rainbows

穀雨 Kokuu (Grain rainsApril 20–24 葭始生

Ashi hajimete shōzu First reeds sprout

April 25–29 霜止出苗
Shimo yamite nae izuru Last frost, rice seedlings grow

April 30–May 4 牡丹華
Botan hana saku Peonies bloom

立夏 Rikka (Beginning of summer)

The Pacific ocean after a summer storm, Okinawa, Japan. Source: Reddit
The Pacific ocean after a summer storm, Okinawa, Japan. Source: Reddit

May 5–9 蛙始鳴
Kawazu hajimete naku Frogs start singing

May 10–14 蚯蚓出
Mimizu izuru Worms surface

May 15–20 竹笋生
Takenoko shōzu Bamboo shoots sprout

小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening)

Source: Pixabay

May 21–25 蚕起食桑
Kaiko okite kuwa o hamu Silkworms start feasting on mulberry leaves

May 26–30 紅花栄
Benibana sakau Safflowers bloom

May 31–June 5 麦秋至
Mugi no toki itaru Wheat ripens and is harvested

芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds)

Source: Pixabay

June 6–10 蟷螂生
Kamakiri shōzu Praying mantises hatch

June 11–15 腐草為螢
Kusaretaru kusa hotaru to naru Rotten grass becomes fireflies

June 16–20 梅子黄
Ume no mi kibamu Plums turn yellow

夏至 Geshi (Summer solstice)

High summer, Yosemite National Park, California. Source: Reddit
High summer, Yosemite National Park, California. Source: Reddit

June 21–26 乃東枯
Natsukarekusa karuru Self-heal withers

June 27–July 1 菖蒲華
Ayame hana saku Irises bloom

July 2–6 半夏生
Hange shōzu Crow-dipper sprouts

小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat)

A blue lagoon in Iceland during summer.
A blue lagoon in Iceland during summer. Source: Reddit

July 7–11 温風至
Atsukaze itaru Warm winds blow

July 12–16 蓮始開
Hasu hajimete hiraku First lotus blossoms

July 17–22 鷹乃学習
Taka sunawachi waza o narau Hawks learn to fly

大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)

The interior of Alaska at the end of summer. Source: Reddit
The interior of Alaska at the end of summer. Source: Reddit

July 23–28 桐始結花
Kiri hajimete hana o musubu Paulownia trees produce seeds

July 29–August 2 土潤溽暑
Tsuchi uruōte mushi atsushi Earth is damp, air is humid

August 3–7 大雨時行
Taiu tokidoki furu Great rains sometimes fall

立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)

Book Review: Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg
The remote Hebridean Island of St Kilda. Source: Unknown

August 8–12 涼風至
Suzukaze itaru Cool winds blow

August 13–17 寒蝉鳴
Higurashi naku Evening cicadas sing

August 18–22 蒙霧升降
Fukaki kiri matō Thick fog descends

処暑 Shosho (Manageable heat)

Celestial ceilings and soaring skies in Poland
A gigantic strawberry moon rises on Midsummer’s Eve 2016 in Krakow, as seen from inside Wawel Castle. Copyright Content Catnip 2015

August 23–27 綿柎開
Wata no hana shibe hiraku Cotton flowers bloom

August 28–September 1 天地始粛
Tenchi hajimete samushi Heat starts to die down

September 2–7 禾乃登
Kokumono sunawachi minoru Rice ripens

白露 Hakuro (White dew)

Source: Pixabay

September 8–12 草露白
Kusa no tsuyu shiroshi Dew glistens white on grass

September 13–17 鶺鴒鳴
Sekirei naku Wagtails sing

September 18–22 玄鳥去
Tsubame saru Swallows leave

秋分 Shūbun (Autumn equinox)

Every Picture Tells a Story: Romantic Autumn Days in Prague
The city of Prague in late autumn. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

September 23–27 雷乃収声
Kaminari sunawachi koe o osamu Thunder ceases

September 28–October 2 蟄虫坏戸
Mushi kakurete to o fusagu Insects hole up underground

October 3–7 水始涸
Mizu hajimete karuru Farmers drain fields

寒露 Kanro (Cold dew)

Lenticular Cloud, Lake Ohau, Otago, New Zealand
Lenticular Cloud, Lake Ohau, Otago, New Zealand. Source: Unknown

October 8–12 鴻雁来
Kōgan kitaru Wild geese return

October 13–17 菊花開
Kiku no hana hiraku Chrysanthemums bloom

October 18–22 蟋蟀在戸
Kirigirisu to ni ari Crickets chirp around the door

霜降 Sōkō (Frost falls)

A geothermal pool during late autumn in Taupo, New Zealand. Copyright Content Catnip 2017
A geothermal pool during late autumn in Taupo, New Zealand. Copyright Content Catnip 2017

October 23–27 霜始降
Shimo hajimete furu First frost

October 28–November 1 霎時施
Kosame tokidoki furu Light rains sometimes fall

November 2–6 楓蔦黄
Momiji tsuta kibamu Maple leaves and ivy turn yellow

立冬 Rittō (Beginning of winter)

Christchurch in springtime is full of magic
The mountains above Otago, New Zealand. Copyright Content Catnip 2015

November 7–11 山茶始開
Tsubaki hajimete hiraku Camellias bloom

November 12–16 地始凍
Chi hajimete kōru Land starts to freeze

November 17–21 金盞香
Kinsenka saku Daffodils bloom

小雪 Shōsetsu (Lesser snow)

Every Picture Tells a Story: Lake Menteith in the fading light of a winters night
Frozen Lake Menteith in Scotland during mid-winter. Copyright Content Catnip 2011

November 22–26 虹蔵不見
Niji kakurete miezu Rainbows hide

November 27–December 1 朔風払葉
Kitakaze konoha o harau North wind blows the leaves from the trees

December 2–6 橘始黄
Tachibana hajimete kibamu Tachibana citrus tree leaves start to turn yellow

大雪 Taisetsu (Greater snow)

Every Picture Tells A Story: A lone fox during a snowstorm
Source: Vintage Photos Online

December 7–11 閉塞成冬
Sora samuku fuyu to naru Cold sets in, winter begins

December 12–16 熊蟄穴
Kuma ana ni komoru Bears start hibernating in their dens

December 17–21 鱖魚群
Sake no uo muragaru Salmons gather and swim upstream

冬至 Tōji (Winter solstice)

The loneliest buildings in the world
A lonely church at Grytviken, Norway. Source: Wikipedia

December 22–26 乃東生
Natsukarekusa shōzu Self-heal sprouts

December 27–31 麋角解
Sawashika no tsuno otsuru Deer shed antlers

January 1–4 雪下出麦
Yuki watarite mugi nobiru Wheat sprouts under snow

小寒 Shōkan (Lesser cold)

Kennerton Green - Australia and New Zealand's Coolest Gardens
Kennerton Green – Australia and New Zealand’s Coolest Gardens. Source: Unknown

January 5–9 芹乃栄
Seri sunawachi sakau Parsley flourishes

January 10–14 水泉動
Shimizu atataka o fukumu Springs thaw

January 15–19 雉始雊
Kiji hajimete naku Pheasants start to call

大寒 Daikan (Greater cold)

Every Picture Tells A Story: Stout Dogs on Antarctic Expedition (1911)
Every Picture Tells A Story: Stout Dogs on Antarctic Expedition (1911). Source: Flickr Creative Commons

January 20–24 款冬華
Fuki no hana saku Butterburs bud

January 25–29 水沢腹堅
Kiwamizu kōri tsumeru Ice thickens on streams

January 30–February 3 鶏始乳
Niwatori hajimete toya ni tsuku Hens start laying eggs

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

6 thoughts on “Japan’s 72 gossamer-light and poetic microseasons

  1. I know Tish…every time I read each season here it reminds me to contemplate everything as it is, nature is a constant teacher and has the ability to heal our souls if we take the time to listen closely


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