I was surprised to learn recently that, while most of the world divides the calendar into 12 months that consist of four seasons, the Japanese take things
a step many steps farther. Their calendar splits the year into 24 major divisions (sekki), each of which are then subdivided into three additional micro-seasons (kō), for a total of 72, that last approximately five days apiece. The year begins in early February with Risshun (“birth of spring”) and lasts until Daikan (“greater cold”) at the end of January. The whole concept is based on old Chinese teachings that nature’s seasonal cycle changes gradually throughout the year.
It’s all very poetic, too. Not surprising for a culture that gave us haiku, which traditionally contains a seasonal reference. Here’s an example of three sekki and their corresponding kō.
I think this makes a lot of sense. With apologies to Frankie Valli, there are way more than four seasons. (Also, big girls do cry.) Yes, leaves change color in the fall and snow blankets the ground in the winter, but there are a lot of subtle changes that take place during that transition. We’ve witnessed this in our own backyard throughout the year. The irises are a symphony of brilliant purple during the first week of May. By the second week, they are already fading, while the peonies are starting to open up. A few days later, it’s time for the bleeding hearts to take center stage. And so it goes.
Currently, on the Japanese calendar, we are in Taisho (“greater heat”). No shit. July 23-28 is Kiri hajimete hana o musubu, the micro-season in which “Paulownia trees produce seeds.” I don’t know about you, but I’m over this constant 95º crap. I’d like to skip ahead to Sōkō (“frost falls”), and specifically, Kosame tokidoki furu (“light rains sometimes fall”), which is October 28-November 1. Obviously, the climate in Japan differs from that of western South Dakota. We could have already had a blizzard by then. If I were more enterprising or bored, I’d create a Rapid City version of this calendar, but I think the general idea suffices.
God, how I love Japanese culture. My first employer after college was a Tokyo-based company, and I learned a lot from my boss, Mr. Yokomura. I can even write my name in kanji. I’ll blog about that experience someday.
If you want to track the 72 seasons on your smartphone, there’s an app for that.
My parents arrived right on schedule Tuesday afternoon, and it’s been a nice visit. We’re spending evenings on the patio and/or playing corn hole, despite the heat. Tara and I are taking Friday off, so we’ll have a three-day weekend in which to entertain them.
Recap to follow next week.