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Kanji of the Seasons
Do you know the Japanese word?
Kanji is a Chinese character with a peculiar pattern, and using in the Japanese writing. There are several different readings and meanings for each kanji. A Japanese word and sentence are composed of kanji combining with kana, a Japanese system of syllabic writing.
We often use natural features to talk about the seasons in Japan. Presented here are some Japanese words of kanji or kana each has a meaning of the seasons. I'm sure they are helpful for you to understand feelings of Japanese people. Have an interest in kanji !

SPRING | SUMMER | AUTUMN | WINTER


SPRING

Do you know the Japanese word 'HARU-ICHIBAN'?
It means "the first gale of the spring". The warm gale blows suddenly from the south. It is getting warmer and warmer after we have 'HARU-ICHIBAN'. We feel cheerful without any reasons and want to go out for a walk. New buds are beginning to appear, and the cherry blossoms will come out soon. We also start to take our coats off this month in Tokyo.
updated: March 1, 1998


Do you know the Japanese word 'HANAMI'?
It means "cherry-blossom viewing". The cherry blossoms come out and show us fantastic pink petals at the end of March to the beginning of April in Tokyo. The cherry-blossom front runs on the surface of Japan more than a month in spring, because of Japanese geographical conditions with long-ranging north and south. The Japanese are fond of going out to see the blossoms in the park, or on the riverside. They enjoy themselves giving an outdoor party under the cherry tree.
updated: April 1, 2000


Do you know the Japanese word 'SHINRYOKU'?
It means "the fresh verdure of spring". All the plants have a remarkable growth in spring. 'SHINRYOKU' has come out in the middle of April, and showed us their fresh green leaves. We are surprised at the rapid growth of their leaves, for shutting out the view over there. The green color is good for the health of our eyes, and makes us calm. In this season of 'SHINRYOKU', we have 'Golden Week' holidays; a succession of national holidays and Sundays from April 29 to May 5. Of course, most of the Japanese go out to see the sights and to enjoy the fresh atomosphere.
updated: May 1, 1998


SUMMER

Do you know the Japanese word 'TSUYU'?
It means "the rainy season". The gloomy damp season has come out in Japan. We have lots of rain from the beginning of June to the middle of July. However, the Japanese are good at finding pleasure in the wet weather. We have a good time of going for a walk in the rain with our colorful umbrella. And we enjoy seeing vivid color, changing red to blue, in hydrangea blooms. Irises seen in flower gardens are also charming in this season.
updated: June 1, 2001


Do you know the Japanese word 'TANABATA'?
It means "the Star Festival; the Weaver Star and the Cowherd Star". In Japan children celebrate the Star Festival on the evening of July 7, putting up bamboos decorated with poem cards and colored tapes. Then they write their wishes in the cards to come true. But ... we're afraid, we have seldom seen stars in the rainy season, except in the southern and northern part of Japan.
updated: July 1, 1998


Do you know the Japanese word 'SEMI-SHIGURE'?
It means "a continuous chorus of cicadas". If there is a place of trees, we can listen to the chorus even in a big city. The Japanese express 'SEMI-SHIGURE', reached their ears in midsummer, "the sound of a shower" not "the noise". They notice coming of midsummer with not only feeling "the heat" but listening to "the sound". 'SEMI-SHIGURE' is also a seasonal signal.
updated: August 3, 1998


AUTUMN

Do you know the Japanese word 'AKA-TONBO'?
It means "several sorts of dragonflies each has a red body". We feel the autumn coming soon to see a swarm of 'AKA-TONBO' flying in the blue sky. The swarm often becomes the object of children's hunting for insects. They also appear in the sky at sunset on a children's song of Japan.
updated: September 1, 1997


Do you know the Japanese word 'NIHON-BARE'?
It means "the very nice weather". We have a clear and cloudless sky in the middle of autumn, October to November, all across Japan. In this season an athletic meet is often held at the schoolyard. A crowd of people gather there and promote mutual friendship through sports. The Tokyo Olympic Games were also held under 'NIHON-BARE' in October 1964.
updated: October 1, 1998


Do you know the Japanese word 'KOYO'?
It means "red or yellow leaves". The most colorful month in all the year is coming to Japan. Yellow leaves of roadside trees in the center of Tokyo are shown late November to early December. In this season the Japanese have an especial emotion for autumn tints, and are very fond of going out to see autumn colors. In particular, I like the flaming scene with 'KOYO' of maple trees in Kyoto; there are some pictures on my "Panoramic Photo Gallery" pages. See them!
updated: November 1, 1998


WINTER

Do you know the Japanese word 'KOGARASHI'?
It means "a cold winter wind blowing the leaves off". Now in Tokyo, it is changing to winter. In this month, we have a sudden drop in temperature and 'KOGARASHI' blowing from the north. We feel a bracing 'KOGARASHI' just as leaving the office. December is also the month of starting to wear our overcoats in Tokyo. And a commuter train gets to be terribly packed by them at the rush hours during winter.
updated: December 1, 2000


Do you know the Japanese word 'JOYA-NO-KANE'?
It means "the tolling of temple bells at midnight on New Year's Eve". Most Japanese people listen to 'JOYA-NO-KANE' on the last day of the year. A Buddhist monk tolls the bell 108 times at his temple, to remove the hesitations of people. Listening to the tolling on a special TV program, we virtually hear 'JOYA-NO-KANE' mixed "the genuine sound" and "the imitation sound" at the midnight.
updated: December 20, 1997


Do you know the Japanese word 'HATSUMODE'?
It means "the first visit of the year to a shrine". Most Japanese people visit to a shrine on New Year's Day, after they listen to the tolling of temple bells 'JOYA-NO-KANE'. At the shrine they pray for their good health and happiness in the year, throwing coins or bills into a big "moneybox". The Meiji Shrine in Tokyo gets 3 million visitors of 'HATSUMODE' in every New Year. There the "moneybox" seems a huge swimming pool without waters.
updated: January 1, 1998


Do you know the Japanese word 'YUKI-DARUMA'?
It means "a snowman". In Tokyo, we had exceptionally heavy snow 2 times successively in January 1998. Then, though traffic was held up for a week, children enjoyed playing in the snow. That is a common interest throughout the world. Everywhere on the street on a snowy day, we see funny-faced 'YUKI-DARUMA' made by them. And it is a pity that he'll disappear without a trace in a week.
updated: January 20, 2001


Do you know the Japanese word 'SETSUBUN'?
It means "the Bean-Throwing Ceremony". In the evening on February 3, the eve of the first day of spring, in Japan we scatter roasted soybeans inside and outside our homes, shouting, "ONI-WA-SOTO, FUKU-WA-UCHI! (devils out, fortune in!)". To be happier, we gather and eat throwed beans with the same number as our age after the ceremony. Recently it's been hard to hear people shouting, except from homes with children and on an annual event at temples.
updated: February 1, 1999

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