72 Seasons

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 (), 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 .

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.

29 thoughts on “72 Seasons

  1. So what is preventing you from creating your own weekly seasonal calendar? You could start a trend in South Dakota. And simultaneously distract from all the silliness that is happening all around the country and continent… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I’m familiar enough with our climate yet to achieve the same level of detail as the Japanese, who can tell you to the day when the cicadas start singing and the “dew glistens white on grass.”

      Maybe this will be a goal to mark our 5th anniversary here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You know Mark, I just learned something from you because even though I spent almost 3 months in Japan, I had no idea about their micro-seasons. But it makes total sense to me, considering how “detailed” a culture they are; especially when it comes to horticulture. I LOVED the time I spent there. It was life-changing! But I have to tell you, the summers there (which is when I was there) are brutal with some of the most intense humidity and heat. OY VEY! And yet, I still enjoyed my time there.

    Have a faaaaaaaabulous three-day weekend with your parents!

    yoi syuumatsu wo!

    *which means “Have a good weekend” in Japanese

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Japan would be a fascinating place to visit, but maybe I’ll stick to fall. Or, as they would say, Kōgan kitaru (“wild geese return”), Kiku no hana hiraku (“chrysanthemums bloom”), and Kirigirisu to ni ari (“crickets chirp around the door”).

      Have a great weekend yourself, my friend!


  3. Considering how beautiful their gardens are, I think they know what they’re doing when it comes to nature.

    Looking forward to your recap!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my favorite places to visit in Portland was the Japanese Garden. AND Miyagi-san taught Daniel the fine art of bonsai in the “Karate Kid” movies. They definitely know what they’re doing!


  4. Fascinating information, Mark. The Japanese do appear to be sensitive and in tune to their surroundings. Like you say, “subtle changes.” I also love Japanese culture. Our neighbours were Japanese where I grew up in Vancouver and I learned a great deal from them. Although, not all about the seasons.

    Betsy did win the award for first responder. 🙂 A prize?! For me, catching up, Binge Blogging Reading since I have been away. Fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very cool. We have a huge Japanese population in our area, which means Japanese grocery stores and restaurants, too. Lucky us!

    Also, I love that Japanese-American parents are never rude enough to block my driveway. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t know about this Japanese calendar and rather like its specificity. Of course, I don’t want to be quizzed on it, I just like knowing such a thing exists. Like you looking forward to “frost falls.” Too hot here, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 72 seasons!!! That’s amazing. They’re definitely right about the hot days. Today’s the 28th so hopefully we start a cooler season tomorrow????

    Hope you’re enjoying your parents visit!

    Liked by 1 person

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