Japanese calendar types have included a range of official and unofficial systems. At present, Japan uses the Gregorian calendar together with year designations stating the year of the reign of the current Emperor.
The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. The calendar spaces leap years to make the average year 365.2425 days long, approximating the 365.2422-day tropical year that is determined by the Earth's revolution around the Sun. The rule for leap years is:
Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the year 2000 is.
The Japanese era name, also known as gengō (元号), is the first of the two elements that identify years in the Japanese era calendar scheme. The second element is a number which indicates the year number within the era, followed by the literal "nen (年)" meaning "year".
The lunisolar Chinese calendar was introduced to Japan via Korea in the middle of the sixth century. After that, Japan calculated its calendar using various Chinese calendar procedures, and from 1685, using Japanese variations of the Chinese procedures. But in 1873, as part of Japan's Meiji period modernization, a calendar based on the solar Gregorian calendar was introduced.In Japan today, the old Chinese calendar is virtually ignored; celebrations of the Lunar New Year are thus limited to Chinese and other Asian immigrant communities.
A lunisolar calendar is a calendar in many cultures whose date indicates both the Moon phase and the time of the solar year. If the solar year is defined as a tropical year, then a lunisolar calendar will give an indication of the season; if it is taken as a sidereal year, then the calendar will predict the constellation near which the full moon may occur. As with all calendars which divide the year into months there is an additional requirement that the year have a whole number of months. In this case ordinary years consist of twelve months but every second or third year is an embolismic year, which adds a thirteenth intercalary, embolismic, or leap month.
The traditional China calendar, or Former Calendar, Traditional Calendar or Lunar Calendar, is a lunisolar calendar which reckons years, months and days according to astronomical phenomena. It is defined by GB/T 33661-2017, "Calculation and promulgation of the Chinese calendar", issued by the Standardisation Administration of China on 12 May 2017.
A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the season or almost equivalently the apparent position of the Sun relative to the stars. The Gregorian calendar, widely accepted as standard in the world, is an example of a solar calendar. The main other type of calendar is a lunar calendar, whose months correspond to cycles of Moon phases. The months of the Gregorian calendar do not correspond to cycles of Moon phase.
Japan has had more than one system for designating years.including:
The sexagenary cycle, also known as the Stems-and-Branches or ganzhi, is a cycle of sixty terms, each corresponding to one year, thus a total of sixty years for one cycle, used for reckoning time in China and the rest of the East Asian cultural sphere. It appears as a means of recording days in the first Chinese written texts, the Shang oracle bones of the late second millennium BC. Its use to record years began around the middle of the 3rd century BC. The cycle and its variations have been an important part of the traditional calendrical systems in Chinese-influenced Asian states and territories, particularly those of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, with the old Chinese system still in use in Taiwan.
The Japanese imperial year or "national calendar year" is a unique calendar system in Japan. It is based on the legendary foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. Kōki emphasizes the long history of Japan and the Imperial dynasty.
Emperor Jimmu was the first Emperor of Japan, according to legend. His accession is traditionally dated as 660 BC. According to Japanese mythology, he is a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, through her grandson Ninigi, as well as a descendant of the storm god Susanoo. He launched a military expedition from Hyuga near the Seto Inland Sea, captured Yamato, and established this as his center of power. In modern Japan, Jimmu's accession is marked as National Foundation Day on February 11.
The official dating system known as nengō (年号) (or, strictly speaking, gengō(元号)), has been in use since the late 7th century. Years are numbered within regnal eras, which are named by the reigning Emperor. Beginning with Meiji (1868–1912), each reign has been one era, but many earlier Emperors decreed a new era upon any major event; the last pre-Meiji Emperor's reign (1846–1867) was split into seven eras, one of which lasted only one year. The nengō system remains in wide use, especially on official documents and government forms.
Man'en (万延) was a Japanese era name after Ansei and before Bunkyū. This period spanned the years from March 1860 through February 1861. The reigning emperor was Kōmei-tennō (孝明天皇).
The imperial year system (kōki) was used from 1872 to the Second World War. Imperial year 1 (Kōki 1) was the year when the legendary Emperor Jimmu founded Japan – 660 BC according to the Gregorian Calendar. Usage of kōki dating can be a nationalist signal, pointing out that the history of Japan's imperial family is longer than that of Christianity, the basis of the Anno Domini (AD) system. Kōki 2600 (1940) was a special year. The 1940 Summer Olympics and Tokyo Expo were planned as anniversary events, but were canceled due to the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese naval Zero Fighter was named after this year. After the Second World War, the United States occupied Japan, and stopped the use of kōki by officials. Today, kōki is rarely used, except in some judicial contexts.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The terms anno Domini (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The term anno Domini is Medieval Latin and means "in the year of the Lord", but is often presented using "our Lord" instead of "the Lord", taken from the full original phrase "anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi", which translates to "in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ".
The 1940 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XII Olympiad, were originally scheduled to be held from September 21 to October 6, 1940, in Tokyo, Japan. They were rescheduled for Helsinki, Finland, to be held from July 20 to August 4, 1940, but were ultimately cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. Helsinki eventually hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics and Tokyo the 1964 Summer Olympics.
The 1898 law determining the placement of leap years 1900) is divisible by 4; but 2560 − 660 = 1900, which is evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400, so kōki 2560 was not a leap year, just as in most of the rest of the world.is officially based on the kōki years, using a formula that is effectively equivalent to that of the Gregorian calendar: if the kōki year number is evenly divisible by four, it is a leap year, unless the number minus 660 is evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400. Thus, for example, the year Kōki 2560 (AD
The present era, Reiwa, formally began on 1 May 2019. The name of the new era was announced by the Japanese government on 1 April 2019, a month prior to Naruhito succeeded the throne. The previous era, Heisei, came to an end on 30 April 2019, after Japan's former emperor, Akihito, abdicated the throne.
|English name||Japanese name||Romanisation||Traditional dates|
|Spring||春||haru||March 21 – June 20|
|Summer||夏||natsu||June 21 – October 8|
|Autumn||秋||aki||October 9 – December 7|
|Winter||冬||fuyu||December 8 – March 20|
See also "Seasonal days", below.
The modern Japanese names for the months literally translate to "first month", "second month", and so on. The corresponding number is combined with the suffix 月 (-gatsu, "month"). The table below uses traditional numerals, but the use of Western numerals (１月, ２月, ３月 etc.) is common.
In addition, every month has a traditional name, still used by some in fields such as poetry; of the twelve, Shiwasu is still widely used today. The opening paragraph of a letter or the greeting in a speech might borrow one of these names to convey a sense of the season. Some, such as Yayoi and Satsuki , do double duty as given names (for women). These month names also appear from time to time on jidaigeki , contemporary television shows and movies set in the Edo period or earlier.
The old Japanese calendar was an adjusted lunar calendar based on the Chinese calendar, and the year—and with it the months—started anywhere from about 3 to 7 weeks later than the modern year, so in historical contexts it is not entirely accurate to equate the first month with January.
|English name||Common Japanese name||Traditional Japanese name|
|January||一月 (ichigatsu)||Mutsuki(睦月, "Month of Love alternatively Affection").|
|February||二月 (nigatsu)||Kisaragi (如月) or Kinusaragi(衣更着, "Changing Clothes").|
|March||三月 (sangatsu)||Yayoi(弥生, "New Life").|
|April||四月 (shigatsu)||Uzuki(卯月, "u-no-hana month"). The u-no-hana (卯の花) is a flower, of the genus Deutzia .|
|May||五月 (gogatsu)||Satsuki (皐月) or Sanaetsuki(早苗月, "Early-rice-planting Month").|
|June||六月 (rokugatsu)||Minazuki(水無月, "Month of Water"). The 無 character, which normally means "absent" or "there is no", is here ateji , that is, used only for the sound "na". In this name the na is actually a possessive particle, so 'minazuki' means "month of water", not "month without water", and this is in reference to the flooding of the rice fields, which require large quantities of water.|
|July||七月 (shichigatsu)||Fumizuki(文月, "Month of Erudition").|
|August||八月 (hachigatsu)||Hazuki(葉月, "Month of Leaves"). In old Japanese, the month was called 葉落ち月 (Haochizuki, or "Month of Falling Leaves").|
|September||九月 (kugatsu)||Nagatsuki(長月, "The Long Month").|
|October||十月 (jūgatsu)||Kannazuki or Kaminazuki(神無月, Month of the Gods). The 無 character, which normally means "absent" or "there is not", was here probably originally used as ateji, that is used only for the sound "na". In this name the na is actually a possessive particle, so Kaminazuki means "Month of the Gods", not "Month without Gods" (Kaminakizuki), similarly to Minatsuki, the "Month of Water". However, by false etymology this became commonly interpreted to mean that because in that month all the Shinto kami gather at Izumo shrine in Izumo Province (modern-day Shimane Prefecture), there are no gods in the rest of the country. Thus in Izumo Province, the month is called Kamiarizuki(神有月 or 神在月, "Month with Gods"). This interpretation is the one commonly cited in western works. Various other etymologies have also been suggested from time to time.|
|November||十一月 (jūichigatsu)||Shimotsuki(霜月, "Month of Frost").|
|December||十二月 (jūnigatsu)||Shiwasu(師走, "Priests Running"). This is in reference to priests being busy at the end of the year for New Year's preparations and blessings.|
Japan uses a seven-day week, aligned with the Western calendar. The seven-day week, with names for the days corresponding to the Latin system, was brought to Japan around AD 800 with the Buddhist calendar. The system was used for astrological purposes and little else until 1876.
The names of the days come from the five visible planets, which in turn are named after the five Chinese elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth), and from the moon and sun (yin and yang). On the origin of the names of the days of the week, also see East Asian Seven Luminaries.
|Japanese||Romanization||Element (planet)||English name|
Sunday and Saturday are regarded as "Western style take-a-rest days". Since the late 19th century, Sunday has been regarded as a "full-time holiday", and Saturday a half-time holiday(半ドン). These holidays have no religious meaning (except those who believe in Christianity or Judaism). Many Japanese retailers do not close on Saturdays or Sundays, because many office workers and their families are expected to visit the shops during the weekend. An old Imperial Japanese Navy song ( 月月火水木金金 ) says "Mon Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Fri!" which means "We work throughout the entire week."
Japanese people also use 10-day periods called jun(旬). Each month is divided roughly into three 10-day periods:
These are frequently used to indicate approximate times, for example, "the temperatures are typical of the jōjun of April"; "a vote on a bill is expected during the gejun of this month."
Each day of the month has a semi-systematic name. The days generally use kun (native Japanese) numeral readings up to ten, and thereafter on (Chinese-derived) readings, but there are some irregularities. The table below shows dates written with traditional numerals, but use of Arabic numerals (１日, ２日, ３日, etc.) is extremely common in everyday communication, almost the norm.
Tsuitachi is a worn-down form of tsuki-tachi (月立ち), which means "the month beginning". The last day of the month was called tsugomori, which means "Moon hidden". This classical word comes from the tradition of the lunisolar calendar.
The 30th was also called misoka, just as the 20th is called hatsuka. Nowadays, the terms for the numbers 28–31 plus nichi are much more common. However, misoka is much used in contracts, etc., specifying that a payment should be made on or by the last day of the month, whatever the number is. New Year's Eve is known as Ōmisoka (大晦日, big 30th), and that term is still in use.
There is traditional belief that some days are lucky (kichijitsu) or unlucky. For example, there are some who will avoid beginning something on an unlucky day.
After World War II, the names of Japanese national holidays were completely changed because of the secular state principle (Article 20, The Constitution of Japan). Although many of them actually originated from Shinto, Buddhism and important events relating to the Japanese imperial family, it is not easy to understand the original meanings from the superficial and vague official names.
Notes: Single days between two national holidays are taken as a bank holiday. This applies to May 4, which is a holiday each year. When a national holiday falls on a Sunday the next day that is not a holiday (usually a Monday) is taken as a holiday.
|Date||English name||Official name||Romanization|
|January 1||New Year's Day||元日||Ganjitsu|
|Second Monday of January||Coming of Age Day||成人の日||Seijin no hi|
|February 11||National Foundation Day †||建国記念の日||Kenkoku kinen no hi|
|February 23||The Emperor's Birthday||天皇誕生日||Tennō tanjōbi|
|March 20 or 21||Vernal Equinox Day||春分の日||Shunbun no hi|
|April 29||Shōwa Day*||昭和の日||Shōwa no hi|
|May 3||Constitution Memorial Day*||憲法記念日||Kenpō kinenbi|
|May 4||Greenery Day*||みどり(緑)の日||Midori no hi|
|May 5||Children's Day*||子供の日||Kodomo no hi|
|Third Monday of July||Marine Day||海の日||Umi no hi|
|August 11||Mountain Day||山の日||Yama no hi|
|Third Monday of September||Respect for the Aged Day||敬老の日||Keirō no hi|
|September 23 or 24||Autumnal Equinox Day||秋分の日||Shūbun no hi|
|Second Monday of October||Health and Sports Day||体育の日||Taiiku no hi|
|November 3||Culture Day||文化の日||Bunka no hi|
|November 23||Labour Thanksgiving Day||勤労感謝の日||Kinrō kansha no hi|
In contrast to other East Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, Korea and Mongolia, Japan has almost completely forgotten the Chinese calendar. Since 1876, January has been officially regarded as the "first month" even when setting the date of Japanese traditional folklore events (other months are the same: February as the second month, March as the third, and so on). But this system often brings a strong seasonal sense of gap since the event is 3 to 7 weeks earlier than in the traditional calendar. Modern Japanese culture has invented a kind of "compromised" way of setting dates for festivals called Tsuki-okure ("One-Month Delay") or Chūreki ("The Eclectic Calendar"). The festival is celebrated just one solar calendar month later than the date on the Gregorian calendar. For example, the Buddhist festival of Obon was the 15th day of the 7th month. Many places the religious services are held on July 15. However, in some areas, the rites are normally held on August 15, which is more seasonally close to the old calendar. (The general term "Obon holiday" always refers to the middle of August.) Although this is just de facto and customary, it is broadly used when setting the dates of many folklore events and religious festivals. But Japanese New Year is the great exception. The date of Japanese New Year is always January 1.
Some days have special names to mark the change in seasons. The 24 sekki (Hanyu Pinyin : Èrshísì Jiéqì; Japanese : 二十四節気; rōmaji : nijūshi sekki) are days that divide the solar year into twenty four equal sections. Zassetsu(雑節) is a collective term for the seasonal days other than the 24 sekki. 72 Kō(七十二候Shichijūni kō) days are made from dividing the 24 sekki of a year further by three. These were named based upon the climate of Northern China, so many of the names do not fit in with the climate of Japanese archipelago. But some of these names, such as Shunbun, Risshū and Tōji, are still used quite frequently in everyday life in Japan.
Dates can vary by one day either way.
|February 3||節分||Setsubun||The eve of Risshun by one definition.|
|March 18–March 24||春彼岸||Haru higan||The seven days surrounding Shunbun.|
|Vernal Equinox day||春社日||Haru shanichi||In Shinto. 彼岸中日 (Higan Chunichi) in Buddhism.|
|May 2||八十八夜||Hachijū hachiya||Literally meaning 88 nights (since Risshun).|
|June 11||入梅||Nyūbai||Literally meaning entering tsuyu.|
|July 2||半夏生||Hangeshō||One of the 72 Kō. Farmers take five days off in some regions.|
|July 15||中元||Chūgen||Officially July 15. August 15 in many regions (Tsuki-okure).|
|July 20||夏の土用||Natsu no doyō||Custom of eating eel on this day.|
|September 1||二百十日||Nihyaku tōka||Literally meaning 210 days (since Risshun).|
|September 11||二百二十日||Nihyaku hatsuka||Literally meaning 220 days.|
|September 20–September 26||秋彼岸||Aki higan|
|Autumal Equinox||秋社日||Aki shanichi||In Shinto. 彼岸中日 in Buddhism.|
Shanichi dates can vary by as much as 5 days. Chūgen has a fixed day. All other days can vary by one day.
Many zassetsu days occur in multiple seasons:
The following are known as the five seasonal festivals (節句sekku, also 五節句 gosekku ). The sekku were made official holidays during Edo period on Chinese lunisolar calendar. The dates of these festivals are confused nowadays; some on the Gregorian calendar, others on "Tsuki-okure".
The rokuyō(六曜) are a series of six days calculated from the date of Chinese calendar that supposedly predict whether there will be good or bad fortune during that day. The rokuyō are commonly found on Japanese calendars and are often used to plan weddings and funerals, though most people ignore them in ordinary life. The rokuyō are also known as the rokki(六輝). In order, they are:
|先勝||Senshō||Good luck before noon, bad luck after noon. Good day for beginnings (in the morning).|
|友引||Tomobiki||Bad things will happen to your friends. Funerals avoided on this day (tomo = friend, biki = pull, thus a funeral might pull friends toward the deceased). Typically crematoriums are closed this day.|
|先負||Senbu||Bad luck before noon, good luck after noon.|
|仏滅||Butsumetsu||Symbolizes the day Buddha died. Considered the most unlucky day.[ citation needed ] Weddings are best avoided. Some Shinto shrines close their offices on this day.|
|大安||Taian||The most lucky day. Good day for weddings and events like shop openings.|
|赤口||Shakkō||The hour of the horse (11 am to 1 pm) is lucky. The rest is bad luck.|
The rokuyō days are easily calculated from the Japanese lunisolar calendar. The first day of the first month is always senshō, with the days following in the order given above until the end of the month. Thus, the 2nd day is tomobiki, the 3rd is senbu, and so on. The 1st day of the 2nd month restarts the sequence at tomobiki. The 3rd month restarts at senbu, and so on for each month. The latter six months repeat the patterns of the first six, so the 1st of the 7th is senshō, the 1st of the 12th is shakkō and the moon-viewing day on the 15th of the 8th is always butsumetsu.
This system did not become popular in Japan until the end of the Edo period.
The first day of April has broad significance in Japan. It marks the beginning of the government's fiscal year.Many corporations follow suit. In addition, corporations often form or merge on that date. In recent years, municipalities have preferred it for mergers. On this date, many new employees begin their jobs, and it is the start of many real-estate leases. The school year begins on April 1.
Hinamatsuri, also called Doll's Day or Girls' Day, is a special day in Japan. Celebrated on 3 March of each year, platforms covered with a red carpet-material are used to display a set of ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.
The Double Ninth Festival, observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar, is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the Eastern Han period.
Golden Week is a week from the 29th of April to early May containing a number of Japanese holidays.
The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, Zhongyuan Jie (中元節), Gui Jie (鬼節) or Yulan Festival is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in certain Asian countries. According to the Chinese calendar, the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh month.
The Festival of Seven Herbs or Nanakusa no sekku is the long-standing Japanese custom of eating seven-herb rice porridge (nanakusa-gayu) on January 7 (Jinjitsu).
Children's Day is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May 5 and is the final celebration in Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948. It has been a day of celebration in Japan since ancient times.
Jinjitsu is one of the five seasonal festivals that were integrated into the Japanese Imperial calendar over 1,000 years ago. Sekku is the term given meaning special day of observance. The festival is now celebrated on the seventh day of the first month and is considered a part of the New Year observances that are celebrated during this time.
Public holidays in Japan were established by the Public Holiday Law of 1948. A provision of the law establishes that when a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the next working day shall become a public holiday, known as furikae kyūjitsu. Additionally, any day that falls between two other national holidays shall also become a holiday, known as kokumin no kyūjitsu. May 4, sandwiched between Constitution Memorial Day on May 3 and Children's Day on May 5, was an annual example of such a holiday until it was replaced by Greenery Day in 2007.
Tango no Sekku (端午の節句), also known as Ayame no hi, is one of the five annual ceremonies that were traditionally held at the Japanese imperial court called Gosekku. It is the Japanese version of Double Fifth and was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon in the lunar calendar or Chinese calendar. After Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar, the date was moved to May 5. The festival is still celebrated in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as the Duanwu Festival or Tuen Ng Festival (Cantonese), in Korea as the Dano Festival, and Vietnam as the Tết Đoan Ngọ on the traditional lunar calendar date.
The Republic of China calendar is the official calendar of the Republic of China. It is used to number the years for official purposes only in the Taiwan area after 1949. It was used in the Chinese mainland from 1912 until the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
The Tenji period is a brief span of years during the Asuka period of Japanese history. The Tenji period describes a span of years which were considered to have begun in the 1322nd year of the Yamato dynasty.
The Kōbun period is a chronological timeframe during the Asuka period of Japanese history. The Kōbun period describes a span of years which were considered to have begun in the 1332nd year of the Yamato dynasty.
The Jitō period is a chronological timeframe during the Asuka period of Japanese history. The Jitō period describes a span of years which were considered to have begun in the 1347th year of the Yamato dynasty.
The Monmu period is a chronological timeframe during the Asuka period of Japanese history. The Mommu period describes a span of years which were considered to have begun in the 1357th year of the Yamato dynasty.
Renri is the 7th day of Zhengyue, the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar). According to Chinese customs, Renri was the day human beings were created. It is celebrated not only in China, but also in the surrounding region influenced by Chinese culture.
Date and time notation in Japan has historically followed the Japanese calendar and the nengō system of counting years. At the beginning of the Meiji period, Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar on Wednesday, 1 January 1873, but for much domestic and regional government paperwork, the Japanese year is retained. Japanese people and businesses have also adopted various conventions in accordance with their use of kanji, the widespread use of passenger trains, and other aspects of daily life.
The adoption of the Gregorian Calendar was an event in the modern history of most nations and societies, marking a change from their traditional dating system to the modern dating system that is widely used around the world today. Some countries adopted the new calendar from 1582, some did not do so before the early twentieth century, and others did so at various dates between; however a number continue to use a different civil calendar. For many the new style calendar is only used for civil purposes and the old style calendar remains used in religious contexts. Today, the Gregorian calendar is the world's most widely used civil calendar. During – and for some time after – the change between systems, it has been common to use the terms Old Style and New Style when giving dates, to indicate which calendar was used to reckon them.
The Gosekku (五節句), also known as sekku (節句), are the five annual ceremonies that were traditionally held at the Japanese imperial court. The origins were adapted from Chinese practices and celebrated in Japan since the Nara period in the 8-10th century CE. The festivals were held until the beginning of the Meiji era. Some of them are still celebrated by the public today.
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