Yesterday I discussed three “Western” calendar systems relevant to hokku — the traditional calendar, the meteorological calendar, and the “natural” calendar. The first is astronomical, and depends on the relationship between the sun and the earth; the second shows us the times of the actual affects of the solar-earth relationship; and the third is based on observation of what is happening in Nature and when it is happening — the sprouting of things, their growth and maturing, their withering, their dying.
After reading that article, some of you may have found the astronomical traditional calendar interesting, but perhaps you thought it a bit irrelevant to hokku. But it is not. Let’s take a look for a moment at the calendar actually used by those who originally wrote hokku in old Japan, and simultaneously I shall show you how it relates to our old and traditional Western calendar with its “quarter days” and “cross-quarter” days.
On comparing our old traditional calendar with the old calendar of Japanese hokku, we find something very interesting. They go together very well, like this:
Our calendar begins with Candlemas on February 1/2; speaking more generally, spring begins the 1st week of February.
In the Japan of old hokku writers, spring similarly begins on February 4th, and these are its divisions:
Risshun, (立春): February 4 — Spring begins;
Usui (雨水): February 19—Rain water;
Keichitsu(啓蟄): March 5—Insects awake;
The spring Midpoint in our traditional calendar is the Spring Equinox: March 21 /22. In the Japanese hokku calendar it was similarly:
Shunbun (春分): March 20— the Spring Equinox, the middle of spring;
Seimei (清明): April 5—Clear and bright;
Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain;
Our traditional spring Ends on the evening before May 1st; then comes May 1st, which is May Day (Bealtaine) and the first day of our summer:
SUMMER begins for us on: May Day, May 1st, 1st week in May. Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers, summer began thus:
Rikka (立夏): May 5—Summer begins;
Shōman (小満): May 21—Grain sprouts;
Bōshu (芒種): June 6—Grain in ear;
Our summer Midpoint happens on Midsummer’s Day — the Summer Solstice, June 20 /21.
The old Japanese hokku Midpoint happened on:
Geshi (夏至): June 21—Summer Solstice, the middle of summer.
Shōsho (小暑): July 7—Small heat;
Taisho (大暑): July 23—Great heat;
The End of our summer happens on the Evening before Lammas; then comes Lammas — Harvest Home — Lughnasa, 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 cycle begins again with Candlemas (Imbolc) 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, we shall essentially and with only slight 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 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.