As I have written before, in hokku we make use of two calendars:
First, there is the “natural” calendar, which varies depending on where one lives. For example, in my state, autumn comes earlier in the mountains than in the lowlands.
Second, there is the old, traditional calendar, which is very much the same in the West as it was in the Japan where hokku was first created. In this calendar we use traditional terms such as Samhain (pron. SAW-win) and Yule.
Now that we are moving into autumn by the “printed” calendar, here is a look at autumn/fall and winter according to the old traditional calendar, with its “quarter days” and “cross-quarter” days:
The End of our summer in the traditional calendar happens on the evening before Lammas; then comes Lammas — Harvest Home — Lughnasa (pron. LOO-nuh-suh), August 1st, 1st week in August. On Lammas our autumn begins.
For us it begins with Lammas — Harvest Home (Lughnasa), August 1st. 1st week in August.
Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers it took place thus:
Risshū (立秋): August 7—Autumn begins;
Shosho (処暑): August 23—Heat finishes;
Hakuro (白露): September 7—White dew;
Our Midpoint is the Autumn Equinox, September 21/22.
The old Japanese hokku Midpoint was:
Shūbun (秋分): September 23— the Autumn Equinox, the middle of autumn.
Kanro (寒露): October 8—Cold dew;
Sōkō (霜降): October 23—Frost descends;
Our autumn has its End at the Evening before Samhain, November 1st. 1st week in November. Then on Samhain our winter begins.
Our winter begins with Samhain, November 1st, the 1st week in November.
Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers, winter began thus:
Rittō (立冬): November 7—Winter begins.
Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22—Small snow;
Taisetsu (大雪): December 7—Great snow;
Our winter Midpoint is Midwinter’s Day — the Winter Solstice — Great Yule, December 21 / 22.
Similarly, the old Japanese Midpoint was:
Tōji (冬至): December, the Winter Solstice — the middle of winter.
Shōkan (小寒): January 5 — Small Cold—also called 寒の入り (Kan no iri) The Entrance of the Cold’
Daikan (大寒): January 20—Great Cold;
Our winter had its End on the evening before Candlemas, February 1st, 1st week in February.
Similarly, as we have seen, for the old Japanese hokku writers, winter ended on February 3rd.
And here for us the yearly cycle begins again with Candlemas (Imbolc) at sunset on February 1st.
For the old writers of Japanese hokku, it began again similarly with Risshun (Beginning of Spring) on February 4th.
Now, what does all this mean to us today? It means simply that if we follow the old and traditional Western calendar as our hokku calendar, we shall essentially and with only insignificant variation be following the same old calendar by which hokku was written in Japan. And incidentally, that old Japanese calendar was actually borrowed from the Chinese, so the Japanese hokku calendar was the same as the Calendar used by the old Chinese poets.
So when we use the old and traditional Western calendar, we are, with little variation, following the same general calendar as the ancient poets of China and Japan. The names vary from place to place, but the times are essentially nearly the same.
Of course there is much more to say about the place of autumn/fall in the writing of hokku, so through this season I will be discussing more old autumn hokku and what they mean for the writing of hokku today.
Keep in mind that hokku originated in a temperate Northern Hemisphere region, and so this calendar reflects that. In the Southern Hemisphere, and in non-temperate climates, the hokku year must be adjusted accordingly. For example, some countries do not have four distinct seasons. Instead, they might have a rainy season and a dry season. Hokku should fit the climate and place and environment in which it is written.