Going according to the old calendar based on inreki (陰暦), the following is just an example of the unique interpretations of the seasons & months as viewed by an older society of Japan. Many influences behind the names are from how society operated. This includes the behavior of nature, farming procedures, holidays & festivals, seasonal plants & flowers, and so on. Many names are presented, which includes officially chosen titles, nicknames and variants, special occasion-related, as well as other obscure ones possible related to region, social groups, and so on. Keep in mind that this page will not feature all of them; from my own research, there are much more naming conventions (possibly hundreds) discovered from Japanese texts.
Take note that inreki is but one of the few types of calendars used during Japan’s history. It is not the same as another old calendar that uses yōreki (陽暦) as a basis. Also, there are slight changes made in order to incorporate the modern shingetsu (新暦) that is used today, so comparing this to inreki will show numerous discrepancies.
SPRING / 春
|和風月名||一月 ＝ 睦月||ニ月 ＝ 如月||三月 ＝ 弥生|
|別名||猛春、 正月、 元月、 初春月||仲春、仲陽、令月、初花月、啓蟄、春分||季春、桜月、晩春、花見月、 清明、穀雨|
1st MONTH: Mutsuki / 睦月
MEANING: Harmonious Month
PERIOD OF DURATION: 2/4 〜 2/18
Common theory behind the naming convention of Mutsuki is believed to come from the phrase “mu(t)subi tsuki”, meaning “month of establishing good relations”. This is tied with O-Shōgatsu (お正月), which is a week-long new years celebration that takes place the 1st week of January. During this time, family members gather together to strengthen their bond together.
There are other theories, such as the name originating from the phrase “moto ni naru tsuki” (元になる月), meaning “starting month of the year”. Shorthand version would be “mototsuki” (元月). In general, these theories share the same idea as this being the 1st month of the year.
- Mōshun (猛春) = Vibrant Spring
- Shōgatsu (正月) = 1st month of the new year
- Gangetsu (元月) = 1st month of the new year
- Hatsuharuzuki (初春月) = 1st month of Spring of the new year
2nd MONTH: Kisaragi / 如月
PERIOD OF DURATION: 3/6〜3/21
In general, Kisaragi represents the 2nd month of the year, as the 2nd month of Spring. From this month, there is more of evidence of Spring due to the changes in Nature. Follows the same kanji use as in China, but not the same lingual, which should be “nyogetsu”. Since “kisaragi” is used instead, the meaning is different.
The naming convention is believed to have come from the words 衣更着, 気更来, and 生更木, which each have the same pronunciation. While it normally indicates the 2nd month according to the old calendar, its “meaning” is deep in imagery according to the seasonal changes. We can get a sense of this by looking at the other versions of the word “kisaragi”:
- 衣更着 = Preparing layers of clothing to be worn during the harsh cold of lingering winter
- 気更来 = Month when the sun will shine its warm rays of light
- 生更木 = As Spring arrives, plants & trees will begin to grow
- 来更来 = Can really get a sense of the new Spring season brought by the new year
- 気更来 = Warmer days to come as the temperature is rising
- Chūshun (仲春) = 2nd (middle) month of the 3-month period of Spring
- Chūyō (仲陽) = Warmth of the 2nd month of Spring
- Reigetsu (令月) = Month of good fortunes
- Hatsuhana Zuki (初花月) = Month when the flowers begin to grow
- Keichitsu (啓蟄) = Becomes warm as daybreak arrives and insects hide in the earth
- Shunbun (春分) = Winter subsides and Spring arises as nature begins to flourish
3rd MONTH: Yayoi / 弥生
PERIOD OF DURATION: 4/5〜4/21
Yayoi represents the 3rd month of the Spring season. The meaning behind the name is pretty deep, and is something that is not translated directly.
ya/弥 = finally, or increasingly
yoi/生 = plants are growing in abundance
Together, the name Yayoi implies “month where the plants flourish in growth at an increasing rate”. This shows how people viewed the 3rd month to be nature-centric. The same can be said for the other names for this month.
- Kishun (季春) = Can mean “final stage of Spring”. In some instances, it also represents the 3rd month of Spring.
- Sakurazuki (桜月) = The season where the cherry blossoms bloom
- Banshun/Kure no Haru (晩春) = Last month of Spring
- Hanami Zuki (花見月) = Season to go view the flowers (i.e. cherry blossoms)
- Seimei (清明) = Around 15th days after Shunbun, means “purify & clean”
- Koku-u (穀雨) = Around 15th days after Seimei, means the period where farmers can plant their seeds in the fields as normal. In other words, this period begins after a particular hot period has past, and lasts long enough before the nights of frost become prevalent.
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