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.
Since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, three different systems for counting years have been used in Japan:
Of the these three, the first two are still in current use; the imperial calendar was used until the end of World War II, though still maintained in some official contexts.
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 - ichigatsu
- February - nigatsu
- March - sangatsu
- April - shigatsu
- May - gogatsu
- June - rokugatsu
- July - shichigatsu
- August - hachigatsu
- September - kugatsu
- October - jūgatsu
- November - jūichigatsu
- December - jūnigatsu
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, which are contemporary television shows and movies set in the Edo period or earlier.
Here is a list of the traditional names.
The name of month: (pronunciation, literal meaning)
January - 睦月 (mu tsuki)
February - 如月 or 衣更着 (kisaragi or kinusaragi )
March - 弥生 (yayoi)
April - 卯月 (uzuki)
May - 皐月 or 早月 or 五月(satsuki)
June - 水無月 (mina tsuki or mina zuki, no water month)
July - 文月 (fumi zuki, book month)
August - 葉月 (ha zuki, leaf month)
September - 長月 (naga tsuki, long month)
October - 神無月 (kan'na zuki or kamina zuki, no god month), 神有月 or 神在月; (kamiari zuki, god month) only in Izumo province, where all the gods are believed to gather in October for an annual meeting at the Izumo Shrine.
November - 霜月 (shimo tsuki, frost month)
December - 師走 (shiwasu, teachers run; it is named so because even teachers are busy at the end of a year.)
Days of the month
Each day of the month has a semi-systematic but irregularly formed name:
||hatsuka (occasionally, nijūnichi)
In the traditional calendar, the thirtieth was the last day of the month, and its traditional name, misoka, survives (although sanjunichi is far more common, and is the usual term). The last day of the year is ōmisoka (the big thirtieth day), and that term is still in use.
Days of the week
Notes: Single days between two national holidays are taken as a bank holiday. This applies to May 4, which is a holiday each year. When a national holiday falls on a Sunday the following Monday is being taken as a holiday.
The list and the table are to be merged.
The list of national holidays:
This table includes 雑節 (Zassetsu), 二十四節気 (24 Sekki) and some others.
(Except 中元 (chūgen) and お盆 (obon), days vary according to the year.)
Some of these names are still used quite frequently in everyday life in Japan. It is common that daily weather reports use 冬至 (Tōji).
The following are known as the five seasonal festivals (sekku 節句)
The rokuyō (六曜) are a series of six days that predict whether there will be good or bad fortune during that day. The rokuyō are still commonly found on Japanese calendars today, and are often used to plan weddings and funerals. The rokuyō are also known as the rokki (六輝). In order, they are:
- 先勝 (senshō) - Good luck before noon, bad luck after noon
- 友引 (tomobiki) - Bad things will happen to your friends. Funerals avoided on this day.
- 先負 (senbu) - Bad luck before noon, good luck after noon
- 仏滅 (butsumetsu) - Most unlucky day. Weddings best avoided.
- 大安 (taian) - Most lucky day. Good day for weddings.
- 赤口 (shakkō) - The hour of the horse (11 am - 1 pm) is lucky. The rest is bad luck.
- Japanese calendar history by the National Diet Library http://www.ndl.go.jp/koyomi/e
- The Lunar Calendar in Japan http://www2.gol.com/users/stever/calendar.htm
- Koyomi no page http://koyomi.vis.ne.jp/mainindex.htm in Japanese
- Koyomi no hanashi http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~nm9m-hsy/koyomi/ in Japanese
Last updated: 02-09-2005 10:06:22
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55