Japan has been using the Gregorian calendar since 1874, but still refers to
its KYUREKI, the old calendar, on many occasions. Letfs take a look at
what Kyureki is and how it relates to us today.
KYUREKI is an old calendar that
specifically represents a revision of the Tenpo Calendar, a lunar-solar
calendar, which was used until 1873. One
lunar month is 29.5 days, and one lunar year is 29.5~12 = 354 days, which is 11 days less than a solar year. You might have noticed that Ramadan in the Islamic Calendar moves every year. This is because the Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar, which may have been convenient in desert areas but was unfavorable in agricultural areas that experienced seasons. In response, the lunar-solar calendar was
introduced, adding some solar elements in a lunar calendar. In China, they sometimes added a leap month every 2 to 3 lunar years to meet solar
years under some rules. They also added 24 seasonal points which are called
24 SEKKI in the calendar, dividing the solar year with 24 points based
on the points of 2 solstices and 2 equinoxes, then they made 72 KOU (other
seasonal points), all for the convenience of farmers. Japan
introduced the Chinese lunar-solar calendars and modified them by adding 5 SEKKU
(annual festivals), several ZASSETSU (more Japanese seasonal points) and lots
of lots of further divinations!
White bearded old men are standing at every street corner smiling and
beckoning me. I approach them and hear them murmuring, gSpring breeze is
thawing iceh, gDid you hear a wagtail sing?h, gSparrows have transformed into
clamsh. I ask, gWhaaat?h Then, another one with louder voice says, gLook!
Insects are coming out of the ground!h, and another, gSummer has come!!h These
are some of the 72 KOU and 24 SEKKI. Listen to them and look around at nature
to confirm their words. Imagine the old days in Japan and
China. It must have been interesting!
Dates in KYUREKI represented the ages of the moon. You saw the moon and
you knew what date it was, and vice versa. If you saw a crescent, it was the 3rd
of a month. If it was the 15th, there was a full moon in the
sky. Now, when would you have seen a lunar eclipse? A lunar eclipse is an
occasion when the sun and the moon are on the opposite sides of the Earth, so
that the moon is hidden by the Earthfs shadow. Well, if the moon is in the
Earthfs shadow, it is a lunar eclipse, otherwise it is full moon, so it also
fell on the 15th. A solar
eclipse is an occasion when the moon moves between the sun and the Earth, so it
occurred on the 1st day of a month.
Festivals were held on certain dates in KYUREKI so people saw the same
moon phase on those events. Bon Dance was held on July 15, so people danced
in a full moon every year. TANABATA, the Star Festival is on July 7. The moon was always the 7th
moon which is like a boat in the sky and sets before midnight leaving stars shining brightly. It was a perfect day for a starry rendezvous.
Small notes from KYUREKI in our calendars provide a treasury of information
about nature and life, our tradition and customs. Take your time and examine
them carefully! You say you donft have time? So strange! Only the calendar
has changed, but time must be the same.