Japanese calendar

Japanese calendar

Since January 1, 1873, Japan has used the Gregorian calendar, with local names for the months and mostly fixed holidays. Before 1873, a lunisolar calendar was in use, which was adapted from the Chinese calendar. [cite web
url = http://www.ndl.go.jp/koyomi/e/history/02_index2.html
title = The Japanese Calendar History
publisher = National Diet Library, Japan
date = 2002
accessdate = 2007-03-19
[ National Diet Library, Japan "The Japanese Calendar"-Calendar History 2]
] Japanese eras are still in use.


Since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, three different systems for counting years have been used in Japan:
*The western Anno Domini (Common Era) (西暦, "seireki") designation
*The Japanese era name (年号, "nengō") based on the reign of the current emperor, the year 2008 being Heisei 20
*The imperial year (皇紀, "kōki") based on the mythical founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC.

Of these three, the first two are still in current use; [http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2272.html Japan-Guide.com] provides a convenient converter between the two. The imperial calendar was used from 1873 to the end of World War II.


The modern Japanese names for the months literally translate to "first month", "second month", and so on. The corresponding number is combined with the suffix -gatsu (month):

* January - 一月 (ichigatsu)
* February - 二月 (nigatsu)
* March - 三月 (sangatsu)
* April - 四月 (shigatsu)
* May - 五月 (gogatsu)
* June - 六月 (rokugatsu)
* July - 七月 (shichigatsu)
* August - 八月 (hachigatsu)
* September - 九月 (kugatsu)
* October - 十月 (jūgatsu)
* November - 十一月 (jūichigatsu)
* December - 十二月 (jūnigatsu)(Note that using Arabic numberals, as 3月, is extremely common in everyday communication, almost the norm.)

In addition, every month has a traditional name, still used by some in fields such as poetry; of the twelve, "shiwasu" is still widely used today. The opening paragraph of a letter or the greeting in a speech might borrow one of these names to convey a sense of the season. Some, such as "yayoi" and "satsuki", do double duty as given names (for women). These month names also appear from time to time on jidaigeki, contemporary television shows and movies set in the Edo period or earlier.

The name of month: (pronunciation, literal meaning)(Note: the old Japanese calendar was an adjusted lunar calendar based on the Chinese calendar, and the year - and with it the months - started anywhere from about 3 to 7 weeks later than the modern year, so it is not really appropriate to equate the first month with January.)
* 1st month of the lunar calendar - 睦月 (mutsuki, affection month)
* 2nd month of the lunar calendar - 如月 or 衣更着 (kisaragi or kinusaragi, changing clothes)
* 3rd month of the lunar calendar - 弥生 (yayoi, new life; the beginning of spring)
* 4th month of the lunar calendar - 卯月 (uzuki, u-no-hana month; the u-no-hana is a flower, genus Deutzia)
* 5th month of the lunar calendar - 皐月 or 早月 or 五月(satsuki, fast month)
* 6th month of the lunar calendar - 水無月 (minatsuki or minazuki, month of water — the 無 character, which normally means "not", is here ateji, that is, used only for the sound "na". In this name the "na" is actually a possessive particle, so Minazuki means "month of water," not "month without water", and some say this is in reference to the flooding of the rice fields. Some have suggested, however, that the name "waterless month" would have been appropriate since this month would have been the month after the end of the monsoon rains.)
* 7th month of the lunar calendar - 文月 (fumizuki, book month)
* 8th month of the lunar calendar - 葉月 (hazuki, leaf month)
* 9th month of the lunar calendar - 長月 (nagatsuki, long month)
* 10th month of the lunar calendar - 神無月 (kaminazuki or kannazuki, "month without gods - but analogous to the name of the 6th month, the 無 character here could be the same possessive particle "na", making this "month of the gods") In Izumo province, modern-day Shimane Prefecture, this is emended to 神有月 or 神在月 (kamiarizuki, roughly "month with gods"), as all the gods are believed to gather there for an annual meeting at the Izumo Shrine.
* 11th month of the lunar calendar - 霜月 (shimotsuki, frost month)
* 12th month of the lunar calendar - 師走 (shiwasu, priests run; it is named so because priests are busy making end of the year prayers and blessings.)

ubdivisions of the month

Japan uses a seven-day week, aligned with the Western calendar. The seven day week, with names for the days corresponding directly to those used in Europe, was brought to Japan around AD 800. The system was used for astrological purposes and little else until 1876, shortly after Japan officially adopted the Western calendar. Fukuzawa Yukichi was a key figure in the decision to adopt this system as the source for official names for the days of the week. The names come from the five visible planets, which in turn are named after the five Chinese elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water), and from the moon and sun (yin and yang).

† Traditional date on which according to legend Emperor Jimmu founded Japan in 660 BC.

* Part of Golden Week

Timeline of changes to the national holidays

* 1948 - The following national holidays were introduced: New Year's Day, Coming-of-Age Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Children's Day, Autumnal Equinox Day, Culture Day, Labour Thanksgiving Day.
* 1966 - Health and Sports Day was introduced in memory of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Vernal Equinox Day was also introduced.
* 1985 - Reform to the national holiday law made May 4, sandwiched between two other national holidays also a holiday.
* 1989 - After Emperor Showa died on January 7, the Emperor's Birthday became December 23 and Greenery Day took place of the former Emperor's birthday.
* 2000, 2003 - Happy Monday System (ハッピーマンデー制度 Happī Mandē Seido) moved several holidays to Monday. Starting with 2000: Coming-of-Age Day (formerly January 15), and Health and Sports Day (formerly October 10). Starting with 2003: Marine Day (formerly July 20), and Respect for the Aged Day (formerly September 15).
* 2005, 2007 - According to a May 2005 decision, starting with 2007 Greenery Day will be moved from April 29 to May 4 replacing a nihongo|generic national holiday|国民の休日|kokumin no kyūjitsu that existed after 1985 reform, while April 29 will be known as Shōwa Day.
* 2009 - September 22 may become sandwiched between two holidays, which would make this day a national holiday.

Seasonal days

Some days have special names to mark the change in seasons. The 24 Sekki (二十四節気 "Nijūshi sekki") are days that divide a year in the Lunisolar calendar into twenty four equal sections. Zassetsu (雑節) is a collective term for the seasonal days other than the 24 Sekki. 72 Kō (七十二候 "Shichijūni kō") days are made from dividing the 24 Sekki of a year further by three. Some of these names, such as Shunbun, Risshū and Tōji, are still used quite frequently in everyday life in Japan.

24 Sekki

* Risshun (立春): February 4 - Beginning of spring
* Usui (雨水): February 19 - Rain water
* Keichitsu (啓蟄): March 5 - awakening of hibernated (insects)
* Shunbun (春分): March 20 - Vernal equinox, middle of spring
* Seimei (清明): April 5 - Clear and bright
* Kokuu (穀雨): April 20 - Grain rain
* Rikka (立夏): May 5 - Beginning of summer
* Shōman (小満): May 21 - Grain full
* Bōshu (芒種): June 6 - Grain in ear
* Geshi (夏至): June 21 - Summer solstice, middle of summer
* Shōsho (小暑): July 7 - Small heat
* Taisho (大暑): July 23 - Large heat
* Risshū (立秋): August 7 - Beginning of autumn
* Shosho (処暑): August 23 - Limit of heat
* Hakuro (白露): September 7 - White dew
* Shūbun (秋分): September 23 - Autumnal equinox, middle of autumn
* Kanro (寒露): October 8 - Cold dew
* Sōkō (霜降): October 23 - Frost descent
* Rittō (立冬): November 7 - Beginning of winter
* Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22 - Small snow
* Taisetsu (大雪): December 7 - Large snow
* Tōji (冬至): December 22 - Winter solstice, middle of winter
* Shōkan (小寒): January 5 Small Cold - a.k.a. 寒の入り ("Kan no iri") entrance of the cold
* Daikan (大寒): January 20 - Major cold

Days can vary by ±1 day. See also: Jieqi.


Shanichi days can vary as much as ±5 days.Chūgen has a fixed day. All other days can vary by ±1 day.

Many zassetsu days occur on multiple seasons:
* Setsubun (節分) refers to the day before each season, or the eves of Risshun, Rikka, Rishū, and Rittō; especially the eve of Risshun.

* Doyō (土用) refers to the 18 days before each season, especially the one before fall which is known as the hottest period of a year.

* Higan (彼岸) is the seven middle days of spring and autumn, with Shunbun at the middle of the seven days for spring, Shūbun for fall.

* Shanichi (社日) is the Tsuchinoe (戊) day closest to Shunbun (middle of spring) or Shūbun (middle of fall), which can be as much as -5 to +4 days away from Shunbun/Shūbun.

easonal festivals

The following are known as the five seasonal festivals (節句 "sekku", also 五節句 "go sekku"). The Sekku were made official holidays during Edo era.

# January 7 (1/7) - 人日 ("Jinjitsu"), 七草の節句 ("Nanakusa no sekku")
# March 3 (3/3) - 上巳 ("Jōshi", "Jōmi"), 桃の節句 ("Momo no sekku")
#: 雛祭り ("Hina matsuri"), Girls' Day.
# Tango (端午): May 5 (5/5)
#* 端午の節句 ("Tango no sekku"), 菖蒲の節句 ("Ayame no sekku")
#* Boys' Day. Overlaps with the national holiday Children's Day.
# July 7 (7/7) - 七夕 ("Shichiseki", "Tanabata"), 星祭り ("Hoshi matsuri ")
# September 9 (9/9) - 重陽 ("Chōyō"), 菊の節句 ("Kiku no sekku")

Not Sekku:
* January 1 - Japanese New Year
* August 15 - Obon
* December 31 - Ōmisoka


The "rokuyō" (六曜) are a series of six days that supposedly predict whether there will be good or bad fortune during that day. The "rokuyō" are still commonly found on Japanese calendars and are often used to plan weddings and funerals, though most people ignore them in ordinary life. The "rokuyō" are also known as the "rokki" (六輝). In order, they are:

The "rokuyō" days are easily calculated from the Japanese Lunisolar calendar. Lunisolar January 1 is always "senshō", with the days following in the order given above until the end of the month. Thus, January 2 is "tomobiki", January 3 is "senbu", and so on. Lunisolar February 1st restarts the sequence at "tomobiki". Lunisolar March 1st restarts at "senbu", and so on for each month. The last six months repeat the patterns of the first six, so July 1 = "senshō", December 1st is "shakkō" and the moon-viewing day of "August 15th" is always a "butsumetsu."

This system did not become popular in Japan until the end of the Edo period.

April 1

The first day of April has broad significance in Japan. It marks the beginning of the government's fiscal year. [ cite web|url=http://www.jircas.affrc.go.jp/english/publication/annual/2002/169.pdf |title=THE JAPANESE FISCAL YEAR AND MISCELLANEOUS DATA |accessdate=2007-10-08 |date=2003 |format=PDF |publisher=Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences ] Many corporations follow suit. In addition, corporations often form or merge on that date. In recent years, municipalities have preferred it for mergers. On this date, many new employees begin their jobs, and it is the start of many real-estate leases. The school year begins on April 1. (For more see also academic term)

ee also

*Holidays of Japan
*Chinese calendar
*Japanese era name
*Jikkan Jūnishi
*List of kigo


External links

* [http://www.japanlinked.com/about_japan/calender.html Japanese calendar tables and zodiac signs, in Kanji, Hiragana, Romaji, and English] ,
* [http://www.ndl.go.jp/koyomi/e Japanese calendar history by the National Diet Library]
* [http://www2.gol.com/users/stever/calendar.htm The Lunar Calendar in Japan]
* [http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Japanese_calendar The Japanese Lunar Calendar] Mechanics of the Japanese lunar calendar and hints on using NengoCalc (see below)
* [http://koyomi.vis.ne.jp/mainindex.htm Koyomi no page] in Japanese
* [http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~nm9m-hsy/koyomi/ Koyomi no hanashi] in Japanese
* [http://www.ad-office.ne.jp/i/rokuyo/ Rokuyō calculator] in Japanese
* [http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/rokuyo.html Rokuyō calendar] in English
* [http://www.allcalendars.net/JapaneseYearConverter.php Convert Western Years to Japanese Years] converts Gregorian calendar years to Japanese Emperor Era years (known as nengo)
* [http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Year_dates Japanese Year Dates] Detailed explanations of Reign years, Era years, Cyclic years, Western years, Imperial years
* [http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/geschichte-japans/nengo_calc.htm NengoCalc] (Tool for converting Japanese dates into Western equivalents)

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