The months in Japanese are usually referred to using numbers, Ichigatsu (一月), Nigatsu (二月), Sangatsu (三月), and so on. Japanese also has names for the months, but these have fallen into disuse. The month names don't correspond to the modern months, which are equivalent to January, February, etc., but to the months of the old-style lunisolar (moon-based) calendar which is now called the kyūreki (旧暦), "old calendar". (See also What Western dates correspond to what Japanese dates?) Because the lunisolar New Year, similar to the "Chinese New Year", is later in the year than the Western-style New Year currently used, the eighth month is "falling leaves" (nearer to September) and the sixth month is "no water" (nearer to July).
An extra "leap month" in the lunisolar calendar was used when the year needed to have thirteen rather than twelve months, to keep pace with the seasons.
Japanese has names for the months, but these have fallen into disuse. The month names, when used with the old-style Japanese calendar, don't correspond to the modern months, which are equivalent to January, February, etc., but to the old-style lunar calendar months. Thus the eighth month is "falling leaves" (nearer to September) and the sixth month is "no water" (nearer to July).
|Old name in romanized Japanese||Old name in kanji||Old name meaning||New name in romanized Japanese||New name in kanji|
|Mutsuki||睦月||Month of harmony||ichigatsu||一月|
|Kisaragi||如月||Month of wearing extra layers of clothes||nigatsu||ニ月|
|Yayoi||弥生||Month of growth||sangatsu||三月|
|Uzuki||卯月||Month in which unohana (卯の花) blooms||shigatsu||四月|
|Satsuki||早月, 皐月||Month of planting rice sprouts||gogatsu||五月|
|Minazuki||水無月||Month of no water||rokugatsu||六月|
|Fumizuki, Fuzuki||文月||Month of letters||shichigatsu||七月|
|Hazuki||葉月||Month of leaves||hachigatsu||八月|
|Nagatsuki||長月||Autumn long month||kugatsu||九月|
|Kannazuki, Kaminazuki||神無月||Month of no gods. It is also called kamiarizuki (神在月), "month of having gods", in the area of the Izumo Grand Shrine, Izumo Taisha (出雲大社) in Shimane prefecture, because the gods were said to gather there.||jūgatsu||十月|
|Shimotsuki||霜月||Month of frost||jūichigatsu||十一月|
|Shiwasu||師走||Month of busy priests||jūnigatsu||十二月|
From NAKANO Yasuaki:
It has been very popular in Japan to name the months by numbers. Months in the old calendar had their own names, such as Mutsuki, Kisaragi, etc., but these names appeared only in novels, poems or literary expressions. I think the official documents called months by numbers (in very ancient ages they might have been named using the Chinese zoological sequence).
Edited from a newsgroup post by NAKANO Yasuaki. Esben Lundsgaard corrected an error in the location of Izumo Shrine.
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