Q. Can you tell me the old names of the months?
A. In Japanese the months are simply numbered from one to twelve. For example, January is the first month of the year, therefore it is called "ichi-gatsu." Click here to hear the pronunciation of the months.
There are also old names of each month. These names date back to the Heian period (794-1185) and are based on the lunar calendar. Today they are not normally used when saying the date. They are written in a Japanese calendar sometimes along with modern names. They are also used in poems or novels. Of the twelve months, yayoi (March), satsuki (May) and shiwasu (December) are still referred to quite often. A fine day in May is called "satsuki-bare." Yayoi and satsuki can be used as female names.
|Modern Name||Old Name|
Here are the kanji characters for the names of both old and modern months.
Each old name has the meaning.
|Month of harmony|
|Month of wearing extra layers of clothes|
|Month of growth|
|Month of Deutzia (unohana)|
|Month of planting rice sprouts|
|Month of no water|
|Month of literary|
|Month of leaves|
|Autumn long month|
|Month of no Gods|
|Month of frost|
|Month of running priests|
If you know about the Japanese climate, you might wonder why minazuki (June) is the month of no water. June is rainy season (tsuyu) in Japan. However, the old Japanese calendar was about a month behind the European calendar. It means minazuki was from July 7th to August 7th in the past.
It is believed that all the Gods from throughout the country gathered at Izumo Taisha (Izumo Shrine) in kannazuki (October), therefore there were no gods for other prefectures.
December is the busy month. Everyone, even the most respected priests run around for preparation of the New Year.