Microseason Forecast for Nov 17-Nov 21 ~ Notes from the Japanese Almanac
It’s a new microseason! If this is your first time joining us, scroll down past the forecast to read about what exactly a microseason is. For the rest of you, let’s jump in!
The Current Microseason: Daffodils Bloom
Yesterday, Nov 17, began 金盞香, the 57th microseason (候, kō) which is read kinsenka saku and means daffodils bloom. This is the third microseason of rittō, which is itself the first solar term of winter.
This is when the daffodils start to bloom and we can enjoy their fragrance. Kinsenka actually means marigold but it doesn’t refer to the flower, rather it is how the Chinese evidently referred to the daffodil, which they saw as a gold cup on a white pedestal, which I suppose does describe the appearance of the flower in a sense.
Seasonal Vegetable: Mountain Yams
There are a few different varieties of yams in Japans—all tasty. They are used to make a number of traditional foods for this season, including karukan which is a kind of sweet bread and joyo manju which is like a sweet bread filled with bean paste. Yum!
Seasonal Tradition: Inokomochi
This is the time to eat inokomochi which is a sweet shaped as a wild boar. In the traditional calendar, this is October, and October is the month of the pig. Carrying that image further, eating a seven-colored mochi on the day of the pig (Thursday) and the hour of the pig (9-11pm) is said to bring a blessed life with no illness or disaster. Therefore, inokomochi is made with (or supposedly made with) seven types of powder: soybean, azuki bean, cowpea, sesame, chestnut, persimmon and sugar.
Here is a haiku for this microseason:
daruma ki ya hōki de kakishi fuji no yama
with a broom I draw
This time of year is when Bodhidharma died. He died on the fifth day of the tenth month, which on the new calendar would be around the beginning of November. Bodhidarma was the Buddhist priest who brought Zen (Ch’an) from India to China and is represented in Japan as the famous daruma doll. Here Issa is honoring him with a spontaneous few swipes of the broom, giving a zen-style picture.
The kigo is daruma ki, Daruma day, which is a kigo for early winter, traditionally only used on the fifth day of the tenth month, which again is now near the beginning of November.
Will move this info to another post one of these days, but for now, briefly:
- Each month has two seasons, called solar terms (節気, sekki), giving us a total of 24 seasons. This gives the system its name, the 24 Sekki (二十四節気). I usually refer to this entire system as The Japanese Almanac. It is more than a little similar to the American Farmer’s Almanac.
- Each of these 24 seasons is further subdivided three more times, giving us a grand total of 72 seasons, or microseasons (候, kō).
- Each microseason is about 5 days. With time periods so short, they can get pretty specific about what in nature we might expect to be happening around now.
- The system was originally from China, but it was reformatted during the Edo Era (1603–1868) to fit better with Japan’s climate. I find it also fits fairly well with much of the Midwest in the Eastern half of the US. But if you live in a different area, your milage may vary.
- The entire system is based on the equinoxes and solstices, so it is fluid and the exact dates will vary by a day or two from year to year. Luckily there are a great many Japanese sources that do the astrological computations for us and tell us exactly when each one starts and ends every year.
The next microseason starts on Nov 22. See you then for the next forecast!