Under the Burning Leaves

In today’s post, I talk a little about the traditional Japanese way of dividing up the year into 24 parts. Also a beautiful autumn leave photo from Kourankei.

Frost Descent

A few days ago, on the 23rd, was the 18th of 24 sekki on the old Japan calendar.

So…what’s that nonsense mean? Glad you asked. The Japanese used to use what we call a lunisolar calendar. This is similar to a lunar calendar1 but with some added features that enable it to stay alligned with the seasons. (We use a lunisolar system in the West to determine Easter2)

The Japanese (and Chinese) divided the year into 24 solar terms to mark the sun’s passage through the sky. This was used to keep track of the seasons and mark exactly what time of the year it was.

When the sun is at 210°, usually at or near Oct 23rd, this marks the beginning of sōkō (霜降) which might be translated as Frost Descent. Traditionally this is when frost first appears and the temperature starts to drop. Sōkō lasts until around November 7th.

It seems to be relatively accurate this year. No frost yet, but tempeatures have started to drop recently and it has now become quite cold in the mornings and evenings.

It is towards the end of sōkō that the leaves are said to start changing colors. Which brings us to…

Daily Photo: Under the Burning Leaves

Another shot from the beautiful Kourankei Valley in Toyota City, a 53,000 acre park that included the most gorgeous autumn leaves you are ever likely to see. I try to make it here every year if I can. It’s one of the most popular places to see the changing leaves in Japan so it is always very busy, but worth it!


  1. A calendar based on the cycles of the moon. 

  2. Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon which happens on or after the 21st of March, which is the vernal equinox—the day when the length of sunlight is equal to the length of darkness—(although sometimes the equinox is on the 20th, but the Church still used the 21st date); and if the full moon happens to be on a Sunday, Easter is the next Sunday. Confusing? You don’t know the half of it, brother. See here 

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