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Minazuki: Old Lunar Month of June, Named “Month with Water”

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Japan used to base its days according to the old lunar calendar which each month had names unlike the current Japanese calendar, indicating each month using numbers. (For example, January is Ichigatsu, or “the first month”, February is Nigatsu, or “the second month”.)

Hearing each names of the month from the old lunar calendar, Japanese is reminded of the beautiful seasonality of Japan.

June was called Minazuki in the old lunar calendar, written 水無月, 水=water, 無=with, 月=moon/month. (NOTE: In modern Japanese, 無 means “no” or “none”, however, ancient Japanese had a different meaning for this character.) So Minazuki was a “month with water”. The reason being, Minazuki was a time to let water flow into rice fields.

As seen from the naming of the month, it can be said of how much the ancient Japanese cherished rice and depended on living off of rice which was the staple diet, used to trade with other food, and to make Japanese sake.

Out of the twelve months in the old lunar calendar, Minazuki fell right in the middle of the year which was a good time to purify one’s foulness and sins of the first half year and wish good health for the second half year.

Last day of Minazuki is called Nagoshi-no-harae, written 夏越祓: 夏=summer, 越= pass over, 祓=purification. People would visit shrines and enter the shrines through a hoop woven using Lalang grass as large as the tori, or gateway into shrine. Then, in the shrines, people would write their names on a person-shaped paper for it to take on their foulness and sins to have them purified in bonfire or washing them away in a river.

Minazuki, the “month with water”, was an important month for sustaining Japanese people’s lives: rice cropping and purification.


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