Seasons and Categories

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Haiku Seasons, Categories and
their worldwide use

For a general definition of kigo, read the General Information.

Kigo and its use in Japanese haiku.

Nature provides us with variuos phenomenon during the seasons, but NOT with words about them.

We humans make up words, classify them, write poetry with them and collect them in almanachs.
The Japanese have been the first to put their seasonal words into collections, call the short poems HAIKU and archived them in books called SAIJIKI, that is why even today as haiku poets we stick to these human conventions and we use these books as reference for our own haiku.

Traditional Japanese haiku are about the many changes during the seasons (not simply about nature ! but about the seasonal changes of nature), the changes in the life of plants and animals, heaven and earth, but also the changes in the daily life of humans within the society, like festivals and food.

The Japanese saijiki started in a time when the Asian lunar calendar was used in Japan, so even now we have a sort of timeslip of one month between the ... natural phenomenon.. and the .. kigo about them ...
February, equated to the second lunar month, for example is early spring in the Asian Lunar Calendar system but late winter in the reality of the weather conditions in most parts of Japan.
Consider Northern Hokkaido and Southern Okinawa ... and yet Japanese haiku poets use the same saijiki when they write about natural phenomenon.

The Asian Lunar Calendar and Ceremonies

A lunar month started with no-moon, had the full moon on the 15th and 28 days to go.
The first lunar month of a year started the round of 12 months.
With the calendar reform in Japan, things changed, making the life of a haiku poet more difficult.

Please read the details here:

. The Asian Lunar Calendar and the
changing Dates of Japanese Ceremonies


A Japanese saijiki is a handbook of the culture of Japan, a travelouge through our many festivals, a description of our food and drink, a celebration of our nature.
Kigo are not ment to be a weather forecast or a biology textbook, but a reference to these words used in the Japanese poetic cultural context.

Kigo are not simply seasonal words representing animals, plants and natural phenomenon, they also include local festivals and other human activities, and thus carry a lot of cultural background information.

The first advise of a haiku teacher (sensei) in Japan is always:
Go get yourself a saijiki and read it many times.


For the worldwide approach to kigo, we must differentiate between the "Haiku Season" and the natural phenomenon and human activites occuring at a certain season at a certain place.

To complicate our endeavor, we also have to deal with the Asian Lunar Calendar and the 24 seasonal points (periods), which were applied in Japan before the introduction of the Western Calendar, when kigo were already used in Japanese poetry. Better read this article before you conitnue.

I compiled the basics about this Asian lunar calendar system here:
The Lunar Calendar in Japan /
The 24 Seasons (juunishi sekki 二十四節季)

They are further divided into

. 72 seasonal points (shichinuniko 七十二候)
72 seasonal spells

Most of them are KIGO.


The classical seasons of Japanese haiku are

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and the New Year.
Each season comes in four sections:

early, middle, late and all the three of them.

Months will not be used to define a SEASON, because of the differences in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, see below. SPRING is SPRING. (This should not be mistaken. For areas outside Japan, each season is defined by your standards, where a haiku poet writes about it, see below for "Calendar reference kigo".)

Even in Japan, rangeing from Northern Hokkaido to Sub-tropical Okinawa, the seasonal phenomenon do not always correspond with the haiku seasons, which apply mostly to Central Japan. The problem of the lunar calendar defining the traditional Japanese haiku seasons has also to be considered. See below.

For the worldwide context here are some guidelines.
Usually it is necessary to know the area, from where the haiku poet is writing, to appreciate the use of kigo he/she uses in the poetry.

Northern and Southern Hemisphere
If there is not specific mention in the WKD, a calendar reference kigo refers to the Northern Hemisphere as its place of origin, since haiku and the saijiki concept originates in Japan.
For the Southern Hemisphere, add six months.
For a calendar reference kigo originating in the Southern Hemisphere, add six months to get to its Northern counterpart.
These adjustments will not be mentioned specifically for each kigo.
SEE: Adjustments for Australia

Calendar reference kigo
are for example the names of each month and then the many festivals of a specific date and the memorial days of people or things.
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. Neither do the Japanese haiku poets who live in Brazil complain about the saijiki.

............... Examples for the use of Japanse Kigo

Example: First Snow, hatsuyuki 初雪
This will be a haiku with a kigo indicating the early winter, never mind the month when it happens in your area.

Example: Butterfly, choo 蝶
This is a kigo for spring (when the first butterflies are seen). To indicate a butterfly seen in a different season, it will be a "Summer Butterfly (natsu no choo)", "Autumn Butterfly (aki no choo)" etc, with the added determining word of the season.

Example: Christmas
a typical calendar time reference kigo
Kigo for Mid-Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. (Will be mentioned)
Kigo for Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. (Will not be mentioned.)
Kigo for "Hot and Dry Season" in the Tropics. (Will not be mentioned, see below.)

. Kigo Calendar - the 12 Months .

to be added.


Non-seasonal words used in haiku have been labeled in many ways:

keywords, non-seasonal topics, all-season topics,
miscellaneous : zakku 雑句; zappai 雑俳
haiku without a season word : muki, mu-ki, 無季, muki no ku 無季の句, muki haiku 無季俳句 ...
"free format haiku" as used by the Shiki Monthly Kukai

... wrongly called : all season kigo (!), quite a contradiction in terms, since KI means season
... "muki kigo": this expression does not exist in the Japanese language !

These words will be collected in the
Non-seasonal Haiku Topics .

The term "all-season kigo, all season kigo" is a misunderstanding and should not be used in this context.

Mukigo ... The Season of 'No-Season'
Problems of Terminology ... a discussion !!!


Here is a piece of advise from Gabi :

If you are inspired by the nature around you, that is your season !
And if you find a kigo to fit that season, all the better for your haiku!

A butterfly in winter is just that, fuyu no choo, a butterfly in winter! Even in Japan, that is what I see once in a while.

Keep observing what is going on around you and write your haiku about it! That is always the first step.

Read your saijiki (dictionary of kigo) in a leisurely moment to remember some of the words that are used as kigo, and what they mean in a certain culture. Maybe they come in handy at another time when you are about to write your haiku. That is the second step.

The more kigo you remember, the more you can later use them in your haiku, that is the Japanese approach to literature.
More is here:

This is a good piece to read for starters.

Check the Japanese Beginner's Saijiki to get familiar with some of the Japanese kigo.
Japanese Haiku Topical Dictionary, University of Virginia Library


..................The Classification of Seasons
As of Summer 2005

This will be a problem we have to solve as we go along. We do not need to establish definite rules to be followed ...we work as we go and when the necessity arises.
The basic notion we have to keep in mind is that we are dealing with “Haiku Seasons” which even in Japan do not correspond to the calendrical ones.
(The tolerance of Japanese haijin about this discrepance should be our ideal in trying to achive consensus ...)

For the temperate climates, stick to the Japanese definitions. For the rest, see where it leads us, compare with the attempts of others and keep improving our definitions.


Adjustments for some areas

For special areas and seasons around the world, we have to make adjustments. They will not be mentined for most kigo that originate in other regions, for example Christmas, but only for kigo originating in the region.

。。。。。。。 India

According to the classical text of the Ritusamharam we will introduce six haiku seasons in India, two more that the four seasons of the Japanese Saijiki.

Each Indian seaseon comprises only two months, whereas in the Japanese saijiki, each season (except the New Year), comprises three months and is divided in early, middle and late part of the season.

Here are the six seasons for INDIA

Summer – called Grishma –in the months of Jaishthya and Aashadh
approximately May and June

Rains – called Varsha - in the months of Shravan and Bhadrapad
approximately July and August

Autumn called Sharad - in the months of Aashwin and Kartik
approximately September and October

Frost – called Hemant – in the months of Margshishya and Pousha
approximately November and December

Winter called Shishir - in the months of Magh and Phalgun
approximately January and February

Spring known as Vasant - in the months of Chaitra and Vaishakh
approximately March and April

Read more details in the INDIA SAIJIKI.


。。。。。。。 Kenya and the Tropics

In Kenya and the Tropics, we have the following seasons for Haiku

.. .. .. hot season
.. .. .. long rains
.. .. .. cool season
.. .. .. short rains

Some of the rainy season kigo appear twice in the course of the year.

Read more details in the KENYA SAIJIKI.


。。。。。。。 Multiple-Season Listings

They will be necessary in very few special cases.

by William J. Higginson

Wind chimes in Spring, a discussion


Online Saijiki for special areas

The World Kigo Database project encourages haiku poets around the world to submit their kigo and haiku about regional items.
Here are the saijiki we support so far

ALASKA Saijiki
AUSTRALIAN Seasons and Saijiki
CANADA Saijiki
Chesapeake Bay Saijiki, USA
GERMAN Saijiki
INDIA Saijiki
ISSA and the Seasons
KENYA Saijiki including the Tropics
North American Saijiki LIST
OKLAHOMA Saijiki (under construction)
Trinidad and Tobago Saijiki

Saijiki for Japanese Buddhist and Shinto Ceremonies and Festivals
Saijiki for Memorial Days of Famous People
Tea Ceremony Saijiki

For more Japanese TOPICAL saijiki, see below.

SEASONS … All about the Seasons of the world
.........................by Waverly Fitzgerald

WKD : Worldwide Calendar Systems

Snow, Moon and Blossoms, SETSUGEKKA 雪月花
Essay by Isamu Kurita
Understanding the Japanese Mind

More to be added.


Non-Seasonal Topics

Words which are often used in haiku and renku, but are not specific for any season of their own. To express a season with them, use another kigo with it.
Sometimes Japanese haiku without a season word are called mu-ki muki, 無季, sometimes words without as seasonal aspect are called keywords in America.
The concept of keyword is not common in Japan.

Japanese Haiku without a season word might rather be classified as SENRYU 川柳.

These words are collected here in our Database:
Non-seasonal Haiku Topics .

For more about the concept of keywords, read the General Information.



The seven Japanese Categories are:

jikoo 時候 Season, climate, time 
tenmon 天文 Heaven, natural phenomena, astronomy, celestial
chiri 地理 Earth, geography, terrestrial
seikatsu 生活 Humanity, daily life, livelihood
gyooji 行事 Observances, seasonal events, occasions
doobutsu 動物 Animals, Zoology
shokubutsu 植物 Plants, Biology

For Observances and calendar-related season words we have to make adjustments for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Thus Christmas will be a WINTER kigo in the North and a SUMMER kigo in the South of the globe.

Since each kigo carries a certain mood or emotional state, the Japanese haiku poet makes sure to study his saijiki and the associations of each kigo.

The Season:
includes general climate, reminders of the previous season, solstice or equinox (i.e., the middle of the season), the months, time and length of day, temperature, approaching the end of the season, anticipating the beginning of the next season.
The name of a month implies a different climatic season in different parts of the world. This is expecially important for the tropical areas, where DECEMBER is a kigo for the hot and dry season in Kenya and the Southern Hemisphere, where DECEMBER is a summer kigo, for example.

The Heavens :
sky, heavenly bodies, winds, precipitation, storms, other sky phenomena, light and shade.
In Haikai, there is also a linking theory involving "heavenly phenomenon" TENSOO てんそう【天相】 and here is one of the eight hattai of the shichimyo hattai 「shichimyoo hattai 七名(しちみよう)八体」theory. With respect to the preceding KU, it links like "cold/warm", "shadow/sun". This theory stems from Kagami Shikoo 各務支考(かがみしこう).
source : 七名八体

The Earth :
landscape, seascape, fields, forests, bodies of water.
© etext. virginia. university

WKD : the END of each season, expressed in KIGO

Humanity and Observances, two important categories for HAIKU
find the related KIGO of the WKD here !

. SEASON ... a category for KIGO
WKD - complete SAIJIKI

The categories are related to the Chinese/Japanese way of classifying things into

ten chi jin 天地人 heaven - earth - mankind


is a kind of encyclopedia or anthology about seasonal things in Japan, not necessarily only about kigo for haiku.


Collecting Local Japanese Kigo (chibo kigo, chiboo kigo 地貌季語)
Kigo from rural and sometimes remote Japanese areas, even in local dialect, used by the regional haiku poets.
by Miyasaka Shizuo 宮坂静生

We have local saijiki of all the regions of Japan,
from Hokkaido to Okinawa
Furusato Dai Saijiki ふるさと大歳時記

There are many Saijiki available from AMAZON.COM, they have a
list of more than 1500 books:



The Museum of Haiku Literature (Haiku Bungakukan 俳句文学館) has the world's only library devoted exclusively to collecting and preserving haiku works for future generations.
Hyakunin-cho Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8521, Japan
Museum of Haiku Literature

Gendai Haiku Kiiwaado Jiten
(Modern Haiku Keywords Dictionary)
夏石番矢(なついし ばんや) Natsuishi Banya, 1990

Eigo Saijiki (Seasonal Topics in English) 英語歳時記
Narita Shigetoshi 成田成寿 (編集)
ISBN 4-327-16008-3 , 1978.
. Details .

Nichi-Ei Haiku Saijiki 日・英俳句歳時記
Katoo Kooko 加藤耕子, 1991


A new approach

Muki Saijiki 無季歳時記 -- A contradiction in terms ?
Modern Haiku Association, Japan

Gilbert gives the English as
Muki-Kigo Saijiki ?? 無季季語歳時記 ??
Muki Saijiki ?? 無季歳時記 ??
The Modern Haiku Association Muki-Kigo Saijiki

The above kanji constructions (re-translations from the English) give no results when googeling. "Muki Kigo" is a contradiction in terms and NOT used in Japanese. Kaneko Tohta uses the expression "Mu Kigo 無季語".

The correct Japanse for this section of the saijiki is as follows:

現代俳句歳時記 無季
Gendai Haiku Saijiki / Muki
Modern Haiku Saijiki / Haiku without a season word

Mukigo 無季語 ... The Season of 'No-Season'
Problems of Terminology ... a discussion !!!


Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons:
Nature, Literature, and the Arts

Haruo Shirane

Elegant representations of nature and the four seasons populate a wide range of Japanese genres and media -- from poetry and screen painting to tea ceremonies, flower arrangements, and annual observances. In Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons, Haruo Shirane shows how, when, and why this practice developed and explicates the richly encoded social, religious, and political meanings of this imagery. Refuting the belief that this tradition reflects Japan's agrarian origins and supposedly mild climate, Shirane traces the establishment of seasonal topics to the poetry composed by the urban nobility in the eighth century.

After becoming highly codified and influencing visual arts in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the seasonal topics and their cultural associations evolved and spread to other genres, eventually settling in the popular culture of the early modern period.

Contrasted with the elegant images of nature derived from court poetry was the agrarian view of nature based on rural life. The two landscapes began to intersect in the medieval period, creating a complex, layered web of competing associations. Shirane discusses a wide array of representations of nature and the four seasons in many genres, originating in both the urban and rural perspective: textual (poetry, chronicles, tales), cultivated (gardens, flower arrangement), material (kimonos, screens), performative (noh, festivals), and gastronomic (tea ceremony, food rituals). He reveals how this kind of "secondary nature," which flourished in Japan's urban architecture and gardens, fostered and idealized a sense of harmony with the natural world just at the moment it was disappearing.

Illuminating the deeper meaning behind Japanese aesthetics and artifacts, Shirane clarifies the use of natural images and seasonal topics and the changes in their cultural associations and function across history, genre, and community over more than a millennium.

In this fascinating book,
the four seasons are revealed to be as much a cultural construction as a reflection of the physical world.
source : www.amazon.co.jp

Read another fascinating review by :

. Book Review by DAVID BURLEIGH .


.........................The World Kigo Database
maintains an ongoing discussion about the subjects mentioned above.

Join here with your opinions.

Kigo Open Discussion Forum

Haiku Topics Open Discussion Forum

Alphabetical Index of the Worldkigo Database




Gabi Greve said...

The Keyword Concept.


. Beyond Kigo, by Jim Kacian .


book of the year said...

The Book of the Year
A Brief History of
Our Seasonal Holidays

Creating, Organizing, and
Transforming the Holidays

The schedule of rituals that we call our calendar emanates from
the vast differences among the seasons that we all experience. Traditionally, we think of the seasons as four in number—summer, fall, winter, and spring. But this taxonomy turns out to be largely a nineteenth-century reinvention of the ancient habit of pivoting the year about the pendulum-like northerly and southerly migration points of the sun (the solstices) and their midpoints (the equinoxes). (Most Indo-European languages have root words for winter, spring, and summer only, which may mean that there once were only three seasons.) In stark contrast, the ancient Celtic calendar set four seasonal marking posts at dates that lie at approximately the middle of our four seasons. Halloween, Groundhog Day, May Day, and the now defunct Lammas, or the First of the Harvest Festival (August 1), once signaled the changing of the fourfold seasonal guard.


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