Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

April 27, 2011

Japanese Customs: Names of the months

Every first-year student of Japanese knows the names of the months: ichi-gatsu, ni-gatsu, san-gatsu etc... it could not be simpler, just the counters from one to twelve plus "month." It is also a bit boring. Happily, there is a more poetic way of naming the months in Japan - but less easy to remember: 

  1. Mutsuki or "social month / month of affection" - the time that family and friends join to celebrate the New Year 
  2. Kisaragi or "put on more clothes against the cold" - the coldest season of the year
  3. Yayoi or "renewed growth" - as plants start growing in this season. 
  4. Uzuki or "month of the U-flowers (deutzia)"   
  5. Satsuki or "month of planting rice shoots"  
  6. Minazuki or "the waterless month" - possibly corrupted for "full-water month" 
  7. Fuzuki (Fumizuki) or "the month in which the rice ears swell (month for writing poetry) 
  8. Hazuki or "month of falling leaves"  
  9. Nagatsuki or "month of long nights" - famous for the beautiful autumn moon. 
  10. Kannazuki or "godless month" - as the gods from all over Japan are said to travel to the Izumo shrine and so are away from home
  11. Shimotsuki or "month of frost" 
  12. Shiwasu or "month of busy priests" - who run around all day for religious services as the year draws to an end.
Of course, these poetic names are never used for dates, but only in poetry, such as haiku, or on old-fashioned calendars. But isn't it much more beautiful?