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December (juunigatsu)

***** Location: Japan.
***** Season: Mid-Winter
***** Category: Season


Haiku juunigatsu in the Edo period relates to the climate of present-day January,
but some festivals are dated in our present-day December.

. . Names of Japanese months and their meanings . .

As the last month of the lunar year, it was also a month with preparations for the New Year.

The Twelfth Lunar Month 十二月 juunigatsu - 師走 shiwasu - .

in Edo


December, juunigatsu 十二月 (じゅうにがつ)

The name of the twelfth month according to the Asian lunar calendar:

December, "end of year month", shiwasu 師走 (しわす)
Explanations of this word :
The Japanese is a pun on SHI HASU 師走, calling the monks together to read the sutras for the End of the Year.
"Year coming to an end", toshi hatsu 年果つ.

"extreme month" gokugetsu 極月(ごくげつ)
"waiting for spring month" haru machi zuki 春待月(はるまちづき)
"first plum blossoms month" ume hatsu zuki 梅初月(うめはつづき)
"Three (all) winter month" mufuyu zuki) 三冬月(みふゆづき)

"Parent-Child month", oyako zuki 親子月(おやこづき)
"Month of the younger brother", ototo zuki 弟月(おととづき)
"Month of the younger child", otogo zuki 乙子月(おとごづき)

tairo 大呂 (たいろ) (old name for the 12th month)
second of the winter tones
It derives from the tones of classical musik (gagaku 雅楽), which was introduced from Tang China.

banshikichoo 盤渉調 (ばんしきちょう) Banshikicho
sixth of the winter tones

. . . . .

"month holding the years together", roogetsu 臘月(ろうげつ)
The word ROO means つなぎあわせる "to hold together"

. roojitsu 臘日 (ろうじつ) last day of the year  

. . . . .

The name of the eleventh month according to the Asian lunar calendar:
(now also used for November in haiku)

"frost month", shimotsuki 霜月 (しもつき)
"frost coming down month", shimo furi zuki 霜降月(しもふりづき)
"waiting for snow month", yuki machi zuki 雪待月(ゆきまちづき)
"looking at snow month" yukimi zuki 雪見月(ゆきみづき

"month with Kagura Dance performances", kagura zuki 神楽月(かぐらづき)

Mask used only in December performances

"Gods coming back" month, shinki zuki 神帰月(しんきづき)
(they have been away in October to visit the shrine in Izumo, see LINK below.)

"month with a day of the mouse" ne no tsuki 子の月(ねのつき)
(meaning the month with the winter solstice)

reference : 十一月 霜月 Juuichigatsu Shimotsuki November


December ―― Under the Weakening Sun

December is the month in which the sun is getting weak. The sunlight becomes weaker and the day gradually becomes shorter until toji, the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. The origin of Christmas is also said to have been a festival of toji. In the past, people who were afraid of the sun which was losing its power, prayed to God for getting its power back to all over the world.

As the sunlight becomes weaker and weaker, all things wither and the mountains, rivers, trees and plants look desolate and gloomy. At the same time the people's life is also much influenced by the weakening sun. As the day becomes shorter and rapidly gets dark, we feel restless as if our daily life is packed off away. The winter cold grows intense, chilly wind howled frightfully, and it begins to snow. We also see ice and frost around us. Under these conditions we have to adapt ourselves to the winter life. In Saijiki there exist many seasonal words about heating apparatus or outfit for cold weather. We have more days when we are forced to stay at home. In the northern part of Japan people are snowbound and obliged to stay inside of the house. That is because the sun has declined in power.

The characters of December are shown in such seasonal words as tanjitsu(the day getting short)and fuyu-no-hi (the winter sun), aren't they?

In gloomy winter, people have placed their lives upon the change of nature, having not only felt depressed but also found the beauty in the desolate nature. People have thus actively enjoyed the winter life. Probably because of this attitude, there are many seasonal words on the tastes in winter.At the end of this month many seasonal words on toshi-yoi (preparations for the New Year) greatly increase in number. This is one of the characteristics of December.

Inahata Teiko

Worldwide use

In the Southern Hemisphere, December is a
kigo for Summer.

The snow and cold related Japanese names would not work there. Haiku poets from the area will have to re-consider the "poetic implications" of this month.
But the meaning of "end of year" will be conveyed worldwide.

Calendar reference kigo are for example the names of each month and then the many festivals of a specific date and the memorial days. Japanese haiku poets up from the North of Hokkaido down to the South of Okinawa have no problem when using DECEMBER as a kigo within the convention of writing haiku, for example.

Calendar reference kigo and their use



December, January and February in Australia

Things found on the way

Poems, Quotes, Folklore Sayings, Links,
References Ideas, Garden Chores
Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo



a traveler's sky--
Twelfth Month
29th day

Kobayashi Issa

Comment by David Lanoue
The season word for this haiku is simply "Twelfth Month," a winter season word. The reason I don't call it "December" is because I want the reader to sense that, indeed, the Japanese traditional calendar is different from the Western one. The 29th day of Twelfth Month could correspond to a much later date in the modern calendar. For example, Issa died on the 19th day of Eleventh Month in the dynastic year that corresponds to 1827.

But, because the old Japanese New Year's Day comes later than the Western one, Issa's
actual death date is January 5th, 1828. This means, in that particular year, the 29th Day of Twelfth Month would have occurred somewhere in the third week of February, Western calendar.

Daily Issa by David Lanoue


December rain --
uncertain chess game
me vs. me

© JJ Dec 5, 2004


December Haiku by Victor P. Gendrano


December fog –
among the yellow leaves
a dead frog.

Michael P. Garofalo

Related words

***** Gods are absent (kami no rusu)Japan. Old lunar 10. month (now November)

***** Kagura Dance (Japan)

***** Year coming to an end . activities ... ... with many KIGO
preparations for the New Year, toshi yooi
cleaning at the end of the year, kure no sooji
cleaning off soot, susu harai
party to forget the old year, boonenkai
giving Year End presents, seibo iwai
paying the last tax money, nengu osame
"holidays for the Year End", nenmatsu kyuuka
.......... and many many more

***** end of the year ... SEASON kigo list

. . . . WINTER
the complete SAIJIKI

. WKD : December - KIGO CALENDAR .





Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

naka naka ni kokoro okashiki shiwasu kana

here and now
I feel quite at ease -
Twelfth Month

To thank his host Suganuma Kyokusui 菅沼曲水 for a barrel of sake to celebrate the New Year.

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

sekizoro no kureba fuuga mo shiwasu kana

when they come
the Sekizoro Singers, then elegance adorns
the last month of the year . . .

Written on the last day of 1690, 元禄3年
More about sekizoro

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

yuki to yuki / koyoi shiwasu no / meigetsu ka

kakure keri / shiwasu no umi no / kaitsuburi

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

tabine yoshi yado wa shiwasu no yuuzukiyo

great to sleep on the road -
this lodging in december
with a sickle moon

Written on day 9 of the 12th lunar month in 1687. 貞亨4年12月9日

about sleeping on the road

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Shimotsuki Matsuri 霜月祭り

festivals of the Shimotsuki month

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