和風月名一〇月 = 神無月  一一月、霜月  一二月 = 師走  
呼び名孟冬、陽冬、初冬、時雨月 立冬、小雪  仲冬、陽復、暢月、霜降月 大雪、冬至  季冬、極月、臘月、春待月 小寒、大寒  
時期11月8日〜11月23日  12月8日〜12月23日  1月6日〜1月20日  

10TH MONTH: Kanna Zuki (Kamina Zuki, Kamuna Zuki) / 神無月

MEANING: Month of the Gods



There are 2 parts to understanding the naming convention for the 10th month.

  1. Based on the kanji, this should be read as “month where there are no gods present”. However, due to the explanation in point #2, na (無) is an alternative character for no (の). No is possessive, which changes the name to “month of the gods”. In actuality, Kanna Zuki is abit complex and means more than one thing, yet manages to refer to the same idea of this month being important in relations to gods. Below it a detailed reason why.
  2. About 800,000 gods throughout Japan head to Izumo Taisha (Izumo Great Shrine), which is located in present-day Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture, while in their absence a few gods are left to watch over their designated areas. Izumo Taisha is the residence of Okuninushi no Okami, who’s the god that gave life to all the other gods throughout the lands. They gather for an entire month in order to discuss people’s faith & luck, as well as future outcomes of farmlands, etc. Due to this, the 10th month is when the gods are absent from their given area, which is indicated by the name “Kanna Zuki”. On the other hand, since they are at Izumo Taisha on important business, their location is indicated with a companion word “Kamiari Zuki” (神在月). For this reason, Kanna Zuki also means “the gods are present (at Izumo Taisha)”, thus why it is read as month of the gods.


  • Mōtō (孟冬): The start of the winter season
  • Yōtō (陽冬): Early in the winter season
  • Shotō (初冬): The start of the winter season
  • Shigure Zuki (時雨月): Month where Fall ends as the leaves have fallen from the trees, followed by a bit of rain
  • Rittō (立冬): Time when the start of the winter season can be felt in the air
  • Shōsetsu (小雪): Light snow begins to fall

11TH MONTH: Shimo Tsuki / 霜月

MEANING: Month when the frost sets in the air



The name Shimo Tsuki implies that the 11th month is the time where winter sets in, and the air becomes chilly. There is a short term for this, which is “shimo ga oriru tsuki” (霜が降りる月), which has the same meaning.


  • Chūtō (仲冬): Middle point of winter
  • Yōfuku (陽復): This is related to inyo (ying yang), where the harshest cold period (in) has reached its peak, so the season will soon change bringing warmer weather (yo).
  • Chōgetsu (暢月): Long period of cold weather
  • Shimofuri Zuki (霜降月): Month when the frost sets in the air
  • Daisetsu (大雪): Period of heavy snowfall
  • Tōji (冬至): When winter has really set in

12TH MONTH = Shiwasu (Shihasu) / 師走

MEANING: Ending of the year (“Priests Rushing About”)



Possibly one of the more complex labels, setting on a proper explanation for Shiwasu is difficult. In modern times it is accepted as meaning the 12th month. Looking into source material related to the roots behind this label brings forth unverifiable info.

  1. In the last month of the year, many master priests are busy going around to different houses reading Buddhist sutras. They are going back and forth in a hurry. This form of terminology is used to explain that the 12th month will be a busy one with many people running around taking care of various tasks before the year is over. This form of interpretation, if using the current label, may be a more relatively recent one compared to the next explanation.
  2. In the old book of poems called Manyoushu (万葉集), shihasu is interpreted as meaning “winter” (冬) by being an alternate way of referring to the 12th month (十有二). The reason behind this is not really known.
  3. At one point before shiwasu became the standard, the kanji “師馳” was used, which is pronounced as “shihasu”. Its normal pronunciation would actually be “shihase”. It has similar meaning as “shiwasu”, but the change to “shiwasu” both phonetically and with a different kanji at the end is not specifically explained.
  4. As the last month ending the 4 seasons cycle, the word “shihatsu zuki” (四極月) is said to have been used to indicate this as well.
  5. Another way believed to have inspired this naming convention (at least for the older shihasu) is the phrase “toshihatsu”. It can be interpreted several ways, such as the poetic “reaching full age” (歳極)”, “end of the year” (年果), and “ending of age” (歳終). All of these mean the same thing: reaching the end of winter through the completion of the 4 seasons cycle. If “to” is dropped and “hatsu” is changed to “hasu” for ease in pronunciation, you would get an altered and slightly abbreviated “shihasu”.


  • Kitō (季冬): Ending of Winter season
  • Gokugetsu (極月): 12th (final) month of the year
  • Rōgetsu (臘月): Abit complex, but roughly means “month of processions and offerings to the gods during Winter”
  • Harumachi Zuki (春待月): The month where people look forward to the arrival of Spring
  • Shōkan (小寒): Period where the cold temperature turns severe. Originally, starting either from late 11th month to beginning of the 12th month.
  • Daikan (大寒): Period where the cold temperature is greatly severe. Originally, from early 12th month around late 12th month.

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