立春 Risshun the Beginning of Spring

立春 Risshun the Beginning of Spring

立春 <risshun> the beginning of spring. [The Season; early spring]

春立つ <haru tatsu> spring begins.

春来る <haru kuru> spring comes.

<Explanation> With respect to the Earth, according to the sun's position, this is one of the Twenty-Four Seasonal Essences into which the year is divided; that day when the sun's celestial longitude is 315 degrees is the beginning of spring. [This is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. See the article "The Twenty-Four Seasonal Essences".] In the divisions of the seasons in this Chinese [solar] calendar, though it is still cold, the lengthening hours of daylight can be sensed during this period [of roughly two weeks] called "the beginning of spring", in addition to the necessity of thinking about agriculture. Aside from the calendar designation of spring, more even than sensations, we recall the signs of spring. In the lunar calendar, since the beginning of spring came at the New Year, the beginning of spring and New Year's Day coincided [approximately], and one composed upon such phrases as "this morning of spring" and "this day of spring". Now, such seasonal topics are used exclusively on New Year's Day [in the Gregorian calendar]. In the Gregorian calendar, <risshun> falls on the day after Setsubun [lit. "seasonal divide", the winter's-end holiday], that is, on February 4th or 5th.

春たちてまだ九の日野山かな 芭蕉

<haru tachite mada kokonoka no noyama kana>

spring begins

and still these fields and mountains

of the ninth day . . .

Basho

立春の雑草園の草ごよみ 山口青邨

<risshun no zasso&circ;-en no kusa-goyomi>

the beginning of spring

by the weed-garden's

plant calendar

Seison Yamaguchi

立春の米こぼれをり葛西橋 石田波郷

<risshun no kome kobore-ori kasaibashi>

the beginning-of-spring

rice has spilled over . . .

Kasai Bridge

Hakyo Ishida

<Appreciation> This verse was written the first year after the end of the Pacific War; knowing about the Kasai* area in Tokyo yields deep feelings. On his way along the bridge, the poet suddenly saw a few pure white grains of rice there; in them, he felt the day as the beginning of spring and then perhaps understood that hope was coming into his heart.

*<Translator's Note> Kasai is located where the Edo River empties into Tokyo Bay, on the border of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area and Chiba Prefecture. The area is now a bird sanctuary. In February 1946, rice--all food--was scarce.

猫柳 <nekoyanagi> pussy willow

川柳 <kawayanagi> pussy willow

<Explanation> A small deciduous shrub of the willow family. It’s alias is “kawayanagi” because it lives in moist habitats and in riverbanks. Among its indigenous members in Japan, the pussy willow blooms the first. In early spring the buds, which are encapsulated with white cottonlike threads like soft velvet, come out before new leaves grow. Nekoyanagi [literally “cat willow” in Japanese] was named after its puffy flowers which is likened to a cat’s tail. Willows produce male and female flowers. Generally, male flowers are used for flower arrangement. Female flowers produce seeds, which later become ryūjo (willow’s down). Pollen distribution occurs in late spring. Nekoyanagi with speckled leaves are the engineered breed for horticulture. Nekoyanagi’s bark contains salicylic acid which effectively reduces fever. Nekoyanagi was once used for pain and fever reliever, but it is not the case any longer.

猫柳湖畔の春はととのはず五十嵐播水

<nekoyanagi kohan no haru wa totonowazu>

pussy willow blooms

the spring on the bank

has not yet arrived

Hasui Igarashi

水にまだ何も泳がず猫柳橋本花風

<mizu ni mada nanimo oyogazu nekoyanagi>

pussy willow stands;

nothing swims on

the surface of the water

Hanakaze Hashimoto

猫柳高嶺は雪をあらたにす山口誓子

<nekoyanagi takane wa yuki o aratanisu>

pussy willow blooms

the new snow caps

on the top of the mountains

Seishi Yamaguchi

都踊 <miyako odori> (miyako odori) the cherry blossom dance

<Explanation> A spring dance event performed by the Gion geisha at the Gion Finishing Academy in Kyoto. It is said that it started in 1872 (Meiji 5). The performance is conducted from April 1 to April 30. Miyako odori is a Kyoto style dancing of the Inouye school. While it has been handed down its traditional dancing style, Miyako odori renews its content of the performance every year. It is well-known as one of the sight-seeing events in Kyoto. It is a thing that gives a poetic charm to the spring in Kyoto.

傘さして都をどりの篝守後藤夜半

<kasa sashite miyako odori no kagarimori>

umbrella in hand,

watching the torches

for Miyakoodori

Yahan Goto

口紅のひかりて都をどりの妓丹治蕪人

<kuchibeni no hikarite miyako odori no ko>

glares in lipstick

geiko dances

at Miyako odori

Bujin Tanji

裏方として老い都踊かな有働 亨

<urakatatoshite oi miyako odori kana>

pageant goes on

spent year grew older

behind the stage

Toru Arihata