Cherry Blossom (sakura)

April: Uzuki

Another name for April is “Hana-zangetsu” meaning that there are still some flowers left. Although officially it is the second month of Spring in the solar calendar, traditionally it corresponds to the end of the season. April is all about the ubiquitous cherry blossom (sakura). Revered as the national flower and referenced in countless songs […]

ornamental kale (ha-botan)

January: Mu-tsuki

One of the traditional names for this month is “mu-tsuki” meaning to go visiting friends and acquaintances to greet the New Year. The festive New Year season is incredibly important to Japanese and there are many rituals and aesthetic symbols connoting the turning of the solar calendar. As part of the seasonal decorations from January […]

plum blossom (ume)

February: Yukige-zuki

In the lunar calendar, February is the time when the snow starts to melt, hence “yukige-zuke” (snow melting). Japanese culture is traditionally inflected by twenty four seasonal points and the day after Setsubun (February 3rd or 4th), marks the beginning of Spring, a time known as Risshun. It is still cold, but here and there […]

rape flower (na-no-hana)

March : Yayoi

An alternative name for March is Yayoi which comes from “iya oishigeru” meaning “plants grow luxuriantly”. Spring is coming slowly and often mornings are still acutely cold.One of the most tangible indicators of “haru meku” meaning “becoming very spring-like” is the budding green of the new leaves on willow trees (yanagi) that line the east […]

Cherry Blossom (sakura)

April: Uzuki

Another name for April is “Hana-zangetsu” meaning that there are still some flowers left. Although officially it is the second month of Spring in the solar calendar, traditionally it corresponds to the end of the season. April is all about the ubiquitous cherry blossom (sakura). Revered as the national flower and referenced in countless songs […]

Cherry Blossom (sakura)

May: Satsuki

May is also known as “Satsuki“. It is the month in which rice sprouts sanae are planted and also the season of samidare or “early summer rain”. Both Sanae-zuki and Samidare-zuki can be abbreviated to Satsuki. After the fanfare of cherry blossom (sakura) in April, the beginning of May is much quieter, although the shobu […]

Hydrangea (ajisai)

June: Minazuki

In June it is traditionally said that rice sprouts “mina-tsukitaru” (all take root) hence the name Minazuki. In the Japanese calendar, the fifth “unofficial”season is “tsuyu” or the rainy season. Typically it lasts about a month until the big summer festival in Kyoto, the “Gion Matsuri“. Days are characterised by sudden heavy downpours as well […]

Morning Glory (asagao)

July: Fumi-zuki

Fumi-zuki comes from “fumi-hiroge-zuki” which means to “open fumi (writings)” based on the idea that Japanese people used to write on the occasion of Tanabata on the seventh day of the month. Tanabata originated from a Chinese folk legend concerning two stars- the weaver star (Vega) and the cowherd star (Altair) said to be lovers […]

Lotus (hasu)

August: Ha-zuki

In the lunar calendar, August was the month in which leaves (ha) began to fall, hence the name “Ha-zuki“. The official beginning of Autumn “Risshu” comes around the 7/8th day. However in the Gregorian calendar, August finds Japan still in the middle of lingering summer heat: sultry and sweltering. One of the flowers commonly seen […]

September: Naga-tsuki

To reflect increasingly longer nights, another name for September is Naga-tsuki. The heat of summer continues unabated even though it is officially early Autumn in the solar calendar. This year has been particularly hot. Japanese residents eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Autumn Equinox (Higan) around September 21st, as it is usually accompanied by a […]

Ripening chestnuts (kuri)

October: Kami-nashi-zuki

One of the old Japanese names for October is “kami-nashi-zuki” since it is the season to ferment newly harvested rice into sake, or, as is commonly explained, the gods (kami) are not available (nashi) because all of them got together for a conference at the Grand Shrine of Izumo. While trimming my garden after summer […]

Japanese maple (momiji) leaves.

November: Shimo-tsuki

A traditional name for the month of November is “Shimo-tsuki” given that frost often forms around this time. Coming from Australia where the trees are almost completely evergreen, the spectacle of colour that November brings is a real entertainment. For me, the “show” begins with the coppery reds of the cherry (sakura) leaves. However amongst […]

wintersweet (ro-bai): image by jacoba akazawa

December: Shi-wasu

December is traditionally known as “shi-wasu”. The end of the year is a time when people asked priests (shi) to come to their homes to recite sutras. Demand necessitated running from place to place (wasu). December 13th marks “koto-hajime” (the start of preparations for the new year) in Kyoto. Everyone becomes busy finalizing business affairs […]