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Japan's 72 Microseasons; a poetic calendar

I recently discovered the traditional Japanese seasonal calendar and its 72 "microseasons". In ancient Japan, the year was divided into 24 periods based on Chinese agrarian culture and its requirement for a more nuanced calendar which was based on lunar and solar events. In 1685, the Chinese 24-seasons were rewritten into 72 "microseasons" by the Japanese astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai with each season lasting five days and charting the ebbs and flows of natural events such as lingering mists (24-28 February), caterpillars becoming butterflies (16-20 March) and "great rains sometimes fall" (3-7 August). Not only do the seasons describe the changes that are happening in the environment but how they make us feel. April is described as 'pure and clear' with the heat of July being described as 'lesser' and 'greater'. These "microseasons" offer a poetic journey through the year and acknowledge the constant movement found in the natural world. I really love how the seasons come to life more vividly through these 72 subdivisions. Spring is so much more than just spring, and winter isn't as bland and lifeless as we think, each season is a whole symphony of change. Below is a list of the 72 microseasons that make up this poetic celebration of seasonal change. The dates are approximate and specific to Japan's flora and fauna, landscape, native animals and insects, and environment, but it is a beautiful read and how wonderful would it be to chart something like this in our own unique parts of the world!


立春 Risshun Beginning of spring


東風解凍 East wind melts the ice 4-8 February 黄鶯睍睆 Bush warblers sing 9–13 February

魚上氷 Fish emerge from the ice 14–18 February


雨水 Usui Rainwater


土脉潤起 Rain moistens the soil 19–23 February 霞始靆 Mist starts to linger 24–28 February

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


啓蟄 Keichitsu Insects awaken

蟄虫啓戸 Hibernating insects surface 6-10 March 桃始笑 First peach blossoms 11–15 March

菜虫化蝶 Caterpillars become butterflies 16–20 March


春分 Shunbun Spring equinox 雀始巣 Sparrows start to nest March 21–25 March 櫻始開 First cherry blossoms March 26–30 March 雷乃発声 Distant thunder 31 March-4 April 清明 Seimei Pure and clear 玄鳥至 Swallows return 5-9 April 鴻雁北 Wild Geese fly north 10-14 April 虹始見 First rainbows 15-19 April 穀雨 Kokuu Grain rains 葭始生 First reeds sprout 20–24 April 霜止出苗 Last frost, rice seedlings grow 25–29 April 牡丹華 Peonies bloom 30 April–4 May 立夏 Rikka Beginning of summer

蛙始鳴 Frogs start singing 5-9 May

蚯蚓出 Worms surface 10-14 May 竹笋生 Bamboo shoots sprout 15-20 May 小満 Shōman Lesser ripening

蚕起食桑 Silkworms start feasting on mulberry leaves 21–25 May 紅花栄 Safflowers bloom 26–30 May 麦秋至 Wheat ripens and is harvested 31 May-5 June


芒種 Bōshu Grain beards and seeds

蟷螂生 Praying mantises hatch 6–10 June 腐草為螢 Rotten grass becomes fireflies 11–15 June 梅子黄 Plums turn yellow 16–20 June 夏至 Geshi Summer solstice 乃東枯 Self-heal withers 21–26 June 菖蒲華 Irises bloom 27 June-1 July 半夏生 Crow-dipper sprouts 2-6 July


小暑 Shōsho Lesser heat 温風至 Warm winds blow 7–11 July 蓮始開 First lotus blossoms 12–16 July 鷹乃学習 Hawks learn to fly 17-22 July 大暑 Taisho Greater heat

桐始結花 Paulownia trees produce seeds 23-28 July 土潤溽暑 Earth is damp, air is humid 29 July-2 August 大雨時行 Great rains sometimes fall 3-7 August


立秋 Risshū Beginning of autumn

涼風至 Cool winds blow 8-12 August 寒蝉鳴 Evening cicadas sing 13-17 August 蒙霧升降 Thick fog descends 18-22 August


処暑 Shosho Manageable heat 綿柎開 Cotton flowers bloom 23-27 August 天地始粛 Heat starts to die down 28 August-1 September 禾乃登 Rice ripens 2-7 September 白露 Hakuro White dew

草露白 Dew glistens white on grass 8–12 September 鶺鴒鳴 Wagtails sing 13–17 September 玄鳥去 Swallows leave 18-22 September

秋分 Shūbun Autumn equinox 雷乃収声 Thunder ceases 23- 27 September 蟄虫坏戸 Insects go underground 28 September-2 October 水始涸 Farmers drain fields 3-7 October 寒露 Kanro Cold dew

鴻雁来 Wild geese return 8-12 October 菊花開 Chrysanthemums bloom 13-17 October 蟋蟀在戸 Crickets chirp 18-22 October 霜降 Sōkō Frost falls 霜始降 First frost 23-27 October 霎時施 Light rains sometimes fall 28 October-1 November 楓蔦黄 Maple leaves and ivy turn yellow 2-6 November 立冬 Rittō Beginning of winter 山茶始開 Camellias bloom 7-11 November 地始凍 Land starts to freeze 12–16 November 金盞香 Daffodils bloom 17–21 November 小雪 Shōsetsu Lesser snow 虹蔵不見 Rainbows hide 22–26 November 朔風払葉 North wind blows the leaves from the trees 27 November- 1 December 橘始黄 Citrus tree leaves start to turn yellow 2-6 December 大雪 Taisetsu Greater snow 閉塞成冬 Cold sets in, winter begins 7-11 December 熊蟄穴 Bears start hibernating in their dens 12-16 December 鱖魚群 Salmons gather and swim upstream 17-21 December 冬至 Tōji Winter solstice 乃東生 Self-heal sprouts 22-26 December 麋角解 Deer shed their antlers 27-31 December 雪下出麦 Wheat sprouts under snow 1-4 January 小寒 Shōkan Lesser cold 芹乃栄 Parsley flourishes 5-9 January 水泉動 Springs thaw 10-14 January 雉始雊 Pheasants start to call 15-19 January 大寒 Daikan Greater cold 款冬華 Butterburs bud 20-24 January

水沢腹堅 Ice thickens on streams 25-29 January

鶏始乳 Hens start laying eggs 30 January-3 February And so the year begins again.

 

Thank you for reading flower friends!

Lauren and Louisina x









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