Each time I open the Japanese monthly calendar for 2014, which came with a Japanese Women’s magazine as a supplement, I am impressed by the ancient Japanese people’s exquisite sensitivity to their changing natural environment. The Japanese almanac used before the Meiji modernization, which changed the old calendar system into the Gregorian calendar in order to keep up with the western powers, had at least three methods to mark the seasonal changes: the lunar calendar, Chinese 24 seasons, and an agricultural almanac. The Japanese calendar of olden times memorialized the physical manifestations of changing seasons and people’s customs and festivities by using poetic expressions. For instance, Sept. 8th is marked as hakuro, which means ‘white dew,’ because frost could be observed on the green blades of plants on the hillside for the first time after the long summer. Opening this calendar induces me to contemplate on the natural environment and Japanese people’s way of life of the past.
Since I live in the US, these seasonal markers and festivities listed seem a little like the events in the fantasy land where many objects and phenomena inspire aesthetic contemplation. I wonder if it is possible to recapture such an aesthetically enchanting experience if one lives in Japanese countryside even now. But, I suspect most contemporary Japanese probably consider these elaborate traditional ways to mark time as somewhat fantastic.