Sunday, November 06, 2005


Japanese lesson: start of the seasons

Watching TV a couple of days ago, I caught a wee Japanese learner's program on NHK after the lunchtime English show. Here I learnt four new related words: 立春, りっしゅん, risshun; 立夏, りっか, rikka; 立秋, りっしゅう, risshuu; 立冬, りっとう, rittou. These are the names for the first day of spring, summer, autumn and winter, according to the ancient solar calendar that divided the year into 24 segments. The approximate dates are, respectively, 4th of February, 6th of May, 8th of August, and 7th of November. The exact date they fall on varies year on year depending on the exact mapping of solar time to the Gregorian calendar; for instance, this year Spring and Summer both started a day earlier than listed above.

In daily life, the most important date (probably the only significant date, perhaps?) is that of 立秋. In Japan, there is the tradition of sending summer greetings cards and presents is called お中元, おちゅうげん, ochuugen, but fortunately I can avoid participating in it on the whole. However, the お中元 card or gift must be sent before 立秋, otherwise... well, otherwise nothing really, except horrendous societal shame for failing to do one's duty of observing custom.

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