A friend and co-worker “R” recently showed me a cool new iPhone app that I wanted to share called 72 Seasons. You can read an excellent review of this app on this blog, too. This is a free app provided by an advertising agency in Japan that shows the 72 seasons of the traditional Japanese calendar.
Most Japanese people today would not consciously know this calendar, but might intuitively know that nightingales come out in early spring, or things like that, in the same way that Americans know that pumpkins are associated with October and Halloween. Anyhow, each of the 72 seasons is about 5 days in the calendar,1 and obviously will vary a bit depending on what latitude you lived at. But each one has a poem, an in-season food and maybe a festival associated with it, among other things.
The above photo is a screenshot I took today. As you can see right now, it is the season of risshun (立春) or first spring. Setsubun is usually associated with risshun too. Also, each season includes a haiku (with explanation on the next page) either from antiquity or a contemporary haiku poet:
The poems are very lovely, and include a nice explanation of the meaning, and how it relates to that particular season. It’s pretty impressive that there’s haiku poetry for each of these 5-day seasons, when you think about it. The attention to nature is something I’ve always loved about Japanese culture.
Finally, for the in-season food right now is the komatsuna vegetable. Komatsuna is somewhat harder to find in the US, but my wife and I have bought it before, and I personally like it. I will have to try and find it soon since it is supposedly in season. 😉
Anyhow, for a free app, the quality is superb, and surprisingly detailed about each of the 72 seasons. Although this was a Japanese app originally, you would hardly notice it because the translations are so seamless. I am hoping that future versions will come with some kind of notification of the change in seasons though; it doesn’t seem to currently notify you when the seasons change, so I have to remember to check periodically.
But for anyone who’s curious about Japanese culture, I highly recommend it.
1 The traditional calendar in Asia, starting with China, originally had 24 “mini-seasons”, but in Japan each was further subdivided into three smaller events. For the example above, risshun, see the Wikipedia entry for further information.