Japan's 72 Microseasons

In my constant search for all things related to travelling in Japan,  I discovered that unlike the traditional four seasons which the western world uses to divide their calendar, Japan celebrates 72 different "micro-seasons". These micro-seasons each are given a wonderfully descriptive name which paints a perfect picture of those little moments throughout the year.

The divisions originated from the Chinese calendar, which in itself has 24 major categories, starting in Springs in early February. But in Japan, these 24 groups split once more into five-day divisions which, unlike the Chinese calendar, match up more locally with the climate in Japan. These sections were written in 1685 by the astronomer, Shibukawa Shunkai, who presents a poetic journey through life in Japan through their seasons.

If you're planning a trip to Japan, this micro-season calendar is an excellent way to determine when you might want to visit to discover these incredible, natural wonders to explore for yourself.

立春 Risshun (Beginning of spring)

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

Ice Statues

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

日本樹鶯 (Horornis diphone#Japanese Bush Warbler)

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

Koi

雨水 Usui (Rainwater)

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

Shinbashi - Tokyo, Japan

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

Misty Road

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

Giou-ji 祇王寺

啓蟄 Keichitsu (Insects awaken)

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

Kyoto

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

Peach Blossom

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

Bask in the sun

春分 Shunbun (Spring equinox)

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

Sparrow in The Tsurumi River / 鶴見川河畔のスズメ

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

DSC02214

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

thunders

清明 Seimei (Pure and clear)

April 5–9玄鳥至
Tsubame kitaru Swallows return

Minimalist Swallow

April 10–14鴻雁北
Kōgan kaeruWild Geese fly north

MiNe-10D_388-8830FG

April 15–19虹始見
Niji hajimete arawaru First rainbows

Rainbow

穀雨 Kokuu (Grain rains)

April 20–24葭始生
Ashi hajimete shōzu First reeds sprout

Lakeside in Winter

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

フローズン

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

Peony

立夏 Rikka (Beginning of summer)

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

DSC_4598

May 10–14蚯蚓出
Mimizu izuru Worms surface

gingery grass and moss

May 15–20竹笋生
Takenoko shōzu Bamboo shoots sprout

Bamboo!

小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening)

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

Feeding mulberry leaves to the young silkworms, Japan

May 26–30紅花栄
Benibana sakau Safflowers bloom

Safflower : ベニバナ

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

Naka Furano, Hokkaido

芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds)

June 6–10蟷螂生
Kamakiri shōzu Praying mantises hatch

Smaller Longheaded Locust on Leaf / オンブバッタ

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

firefly4

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

Ume

夏至 Geshi (Summer solstice)

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

◯

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

Lady

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

Tea House

小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat)

July 7–11温風至
Atsukaze itaru Warm winds blow

Pavillon d'Or (1)

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

Lotus

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

Untitled

大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)

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

Arnold Arboretum, 23 May 2010

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

Streets.

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

立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)

August 8–12涼風至
Suzukaze itaru Cool winds blow

The mountain of autumn which begins to color

August 13–17寒蝉鳴
Higurashi naku Evening cicadas sing

20091107 Ryukouin 4 (Summer forgot something)

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

IMG_1224

処暑 Shosho (Manageable heat)

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

Cotton plant (Matsudo, Chiba, Japan)

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

Autumn fire

September 2–7禾乃登
Kokumono sunawachi minoru Rice ripens

Terraced rice fields

白露 Hakuro (White dew)

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

田総川用水

September 13–17鶺鴒鳴
Sekirei naku Wagtails sing

White Wagtail

September 18–22玄鳥去
Tsubame saru Swallows leave

Swallows

秋分 Shūbun (Autumn equinox)

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

thundercloud #1

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

Kyoto 10-27-2005 3-35-37 PM.jpg

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

Farmer

寒露 Kanro (Cold dew)

October 8–12鴻雁来
Kōgan kitaru Wild geese return

MiNe-10D_388-8830FG

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

Chrysanthemums

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

ziiiiiiiirp

霜降 Sōkō (Frost falls)

October 23–27霜始降
Shimo hajimete furu First frost

Winter up close #1

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

A Rainy Day in Harajuku

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

Autumn Scene

立冬 Rittō (Beginning of winter)

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

Camellia Sasanqua

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

Cold

November 17–21金盞香
Kinsenka saku Daffodils bloom

Daffodil / Narcissus / 水仙(スイセン)

小雪 Shōsetsu (Lesser snow)

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

East of Nara

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

Japan Mt.tateshina snow and tree

December 2–6橘始黄
Tachibana hajimete kibamuTachibana Citrus tree leaves start to turn yellow

五知の伊予柑(Citrus iyo)2

大雪 Taisetsu (Greater snow)

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

A cold night in Shibu Onsen

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

Black Japanese bear

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

People under hung salmon

冬至 Tōji (Winter solstice)

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

Winter

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

cu deer

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

メナード青山リゾート - Menard Aoyama Resort // 2010.07.09 - 05

小寒 Shōkan (Lesser cold)

January 5–9芹乃栄
Seri sunawachi sakau Parsley flourishes

Untitled

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

DSC02117

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

Kimono with Birds in Flight

大寒 Daikan (Greater cold)

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

Butterbur Flower

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

Stream

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

Cock, Hen and Nadeshiko

Japan's 72 Microseasons