What season is it right now? Winter? Wrong. Technically, it’s the 1st week of February, which means it’s “Spring Winds Thaw the Ice” (東風解凍). What about next month? You say Spring? Wrong again. March begins with “Grass Sprouts, Trees Bud” (草木萌動) and ends with “The First Cherry Blossoms” (櫻始開). I am, of course, going off of Japan’s ancient calendar, which is divided into 24 seasons and 72 microseasons.
An app called 72 Seasons has recently been translated into English, and is available for free in the app store. It syncs with the old 72 season calendar and updates about every 5 days, pinging you (if you allow it) with every new microseason as you enter it. It won’t, however, sync with climate change.
And not only does it give you the microseason but a whole bunch of poetic information like the seasonal word (this week is risshun, or ‘first spring’), seasonal fish (Spiny Lobster!), seasonal vegetable (Butterbur anyone?), seasonal star and even seasonal activity. And each is accompanied by a beautiful illustration or photograph. I was honestly surprised that a free app could come with such high-quality content. (We were not paid to say that. It’s just how we feel.)
So how did Japan even develop 72 microseasons? The app developer, Utsukushii Kurashikata Institute, explains:
The path of the sun as seen from Earth creates a zodiac, 360 degrees divided into 24 15-degree sections, each one given a name to depict the seasonal changes through the year… And beyond that, each season of the 24 season calendar was then divided again into three more, to create the 72 season calendar. Each of these 72 seasons lasts just five days or so, and the names of each season beautifully depict the tiny, delicate changes in nature that occur around us, year in year out.
Utsukushii Kurashikata Institute (Beautiful Living Research Lab) is a joint initiative between ad agency Dentsu and publishing company Heibonsha. The project aims to show a lifestyle that incorporates age-old Japanese wisdom into contemporary life.