Saturday, May 4, 2019

Satsukibare - Sunny Days of May

Being the month of May, I'm going to talk about a term the Japanese like to use around this time of year. That term is "satsukibare." (五月晴, sa-tsoo-kee-bah-ray)

The meaning of this term has changed over time. Taken apart, it just means "a clear day in the 5th month," and it referred a day in May when it didn't rain.

You see, back before the Japanese adopted the Gregorian Calendar, the Japanese used the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which varied by about a month.

The rainy season, or "tsuyu" (梅雨, tsoo-yoo) was expected during the 5th month at that time. In fact, an alternate kanji spelling for the 5th month was 皐月, which means "the month of pools."

Today, however, the rainy season is expected in the month of June, so the term "satsukibare" has taken on a slightly different meaning; it now refers to the typical sunny days of May.

Old Months, New Months
Before the Japanese adopted the Gregorian Calendar, the months of the year had different names. They were:

Mutsuki (睦月, moo-tsoo-ki) - "The Month of Friendship"
Kisaragi (如月, kee-sah-rah-gee) or alternatively Kinusaragi (衣更着, kee-noo-sah-rah-gee) "Month of Changing Garnments"
Yayoi (弥生, yah-yoh-ee) "Month of New Life"
Uzuki (卯月, "oo-zoo-kee") "Month of the Rabbit Flower"
Satsuki (皐月, sah-tsoo-kee) "Month of Pools" or Sanaetsuki (早苗月, sah-nah-ay tsoo-kee), "Early-rice-planting Month"
Minazuki (水無月, mee-nah-zoo-kee) "Month of Water"
Fumizuki (文月, foo-mee-zoo-kee) "Month of Scholarship"
Hazuki (葉月, hah-zoo-kee) "Month of Leaves" or alternatively "Haochizuki" (葉落ち, hah-oh-chee-zoo-kee) "Month of Falling Leaves").
Nagatsuki (長月, nah-gah-zoo-kee)  "Long Month"
Kannazuki (神無月, kan-nah-zoo-kee) "Month of the Gods" 
Shimozuki (霜月, shee-moh-zoo-kee)  "Month of Frost").
Shiwasu (師走, shee-ah-wah-soo) "Busy Priests"

But today, the months of the year have boring old names in Japanese:

Ichigatsu - (一月 - ee-chee-gah-tsoo) - One Month
Nigatsu - (二月 - nee-gah-tsoo) - Two Month
Sangatsu - (三月 - san-gah-tsoo) - Three Month
Shigatsu - (四月 - shee-gah-tsoo) - Four Month
Gogatsu - (五月 - go-gah-tsoo) - Five Month
Rokugatsu - (六月 - roh-koo-gah-tsoo) - Six Month
Shichigatsu - (七月 - shee-chee-gah-tsoo) - Seven Month
Hachigatsu - (八月 - hah-chee-gah-tsoo) - Eight Month
Kugatsu - (九月 - koo-gah-tsoo) - Nine Month
Juugatsu - (十月 - joo-gah-tsoo) - Ten Month
Juuichigatsu - (十一月 - joo-ee-chee-gah-tsoo) - Eleven Month
Juunigatsu - (十二月 - joo-nee-gah-tsoo) - Twelve Month

Isn't that a pip!

Related Links:
Tsuyu: The Rainy Season