Japan’s Micro-seasons

The traditional Japanese calendar didn’t divide the year into 12 months and four seasons. Instead, a year was made up of 24 sekki (石器), each of which was divided into 3 ko (コ), making 72 ‘micro-seasons’ of about 5 days.

Each ko has a descriptive name, related to nature or the weather. So 10 April to 14 April is 'Wild geese fly north' while 2 November to 6 November is 'Maple leaves and ivy turn yellow'.

I love the idea that nature was expected to follow such an accurate timetable, even though we know it doesn't. But it must have been a comforting way to count out nature's days through the year, anticipating what might be around the corner, and noting that 'the peonies are late this year' or 'the sparrows are nesting early'.

30 April to 4 May: Peonies bloom

16 to 20 June: Plums turn yellow

18 to 22 August: Thick fog descends

15 to 19 January: Pheasants start to call