Seasonal Cues and Our Senses


Blooming Sakura tells us that spring is coming. The cherry blossom front (桜前線, “Sakura Zensen”) moves across Japan from the south to the north, from the end of February to the beginning of May. You may enjoy viewing the full blossoms of Sakura at the end of March in Tokyo. If you travel to the Tohoku and Hokkaido areas in late April to early May, you will enjoy viewing Sakura again.

The cherry blossoms (Sakura) are the spring specialty. They show us the light pink of gorgeous flower only a few days in a year. When the cherry petals are fallen, we feel that the climate gets warmer.

Iconic Things in Different Seasons

Japan has four distinct seasons. And each season has a seasonal specialty. Sakura represents spring, a voice of a cicada as summer, pampas grass as autumn and snow as winter. These are examples of representing seasons. A glossary of seasonal terms (歳時記 “Saijiki”) for haiku (俳句 “Haiku”), a short form of Japanese poetry has more than 4,000 season words (季語 “Kigo”).

Close Attention to Seasonal Cues

As haiku indicates, the Japanese has paid close attention to nature and seasonal changes in the historical period. Waka (和歌), classical Japanese poetry with a much longer history than Haiku has many famous poems, expressing poets’ observations about the seasons. Manyoshu (万葉集), the oldest collection of Japanese poetry in the 7th century has many poems observing and admiring nature and four seasons. Even in these days, writing a haiku remain popular in Japan across the generations.

Seasonal Changes of Clothes (“Koromogae”)

Four distinct seasons create the Japanese custom of seasonal changes of clothes, too. The changes of clothes by season (衣替え “Koromogae”) take place in summer and winter when the weather starts changes. “Koromogae” is not all about adaptations of clothes to make it comfortable. It is also about adaptations of clothing designs and accessories to fit the season. In spring, people start wearing clothes with a light color like cherry blossoms while they wear clothes with a darker color like maples in autumn.

Japanese Habits to Fit Around?

The four seasons may have the Japanese to be sensitive to external changes. At the same time, they may have the Japanse developed the habits to fit themselves to the environment around them. While adaptations to the environment are necessary, we want to see more changes from within Japan.