As the Edo period wore on and knowledge of astronomy grew more sophisticated, the discrepancy between the calendar and actual astronomical events, such as eclipses of the sun and moon, became an issue, there arose a movement within the shogunate to amend the calendar. Prior to then, the calendar was made each year based on the Senmyo-reki brought from China in the 4th year of Jogan (862), but as the same method had been used for more than eight centuries, it was deemed consistent with the situation prevailing at the time. In the 2nd year of Jokyo (1685), a method of making the calendar was devised by Shibukawa Harumi, marking the first attempt by a Japanese, with the amended version known as the Jokyo calendar. Later in the Edo Period, the calendar was revised several times, the results respectively called the Horeki (1755), Kansai (1798) and Tenpo (1844) calendars. Through these amendments, a more accurate lunisolar calendar was devised incorporating Occidental astronomy. Calendar calculation was made by the "Tenmongata" (officer in charge of astronomy) in the Edo shogunate, with notes added by the Kotokui family, descendants of the Kamo family, after which calendars were issued by publishers in various regions.
"Torigoe no Fuji" [the scene of the Asakusa Observatory]
Daily life and the calendar
Calendars at first were exclusively for the use of the imperial court and noblemen, but after the dawn of printed calendars, more and more people came to use them. Farmers and merchants found them essential to know the seasons and events. In particular, when using lunisolar calendars in which the order of long and short months changed year after year, learning them proved indispensable for merchants who made collections or payments at the end of each month.
Because of this, various types of calendars were devised and used.
Calendars were published mainly in Kyoto, but as the demand rose, they began to sell in various regions. A very old one, the Mishima-reki calendar, published in a district corresponding to the present-day Mishima City in Shizuoka Prefecture, is said to date back to the 14th century. Another is the Ise-reki calendar, which was published in what is now Ise City in Mie Prefecture and widely spread as Oshi, Shinto priests of the Ise Shrines, traveled through the country.
3rd year of Bunsei (1820) Ise-goyomi
E-goyomi (Picture calendar)
In former times when, unlike today, a great many people were illiterate, some calendars were made only with pictures. The Tayama calendar and Morioka e-goyomi, both produced in what is now Iwate Prefecture, are such examples.
2nd year of Kyowa (1802) Tayama-reki
These calendars were produced to help people learn the order of long and short months. In calendars of this type, long and short months were incorporated in drawings and sentences, for which their manufacturers vied in novelty and of humor. They were widespread among the populace during the Edo period.
In "Unriddling the Daisho-reki calendar" of Part II, various Daisho-reki calendars will be introduced.
4th year of Keio (first year of Meiji, 1868) Daisho-reki
Various forms of calendars
Simplified calendars, consisting of only the well-used parts, are called Ryaku-reki (Abridged calendars). Folding them into small sections or tacking them to a post, people in the Edo period used them for daily reference. Many examples of these calendars remain today. As in the case of contemporary calendars, merchants distributed them among their customers at the year-end as a form of advertising.
2nd year of Keio (1866)
Hashira-goyomi (pillar calendar)
3rd year of Bunsei (1820)
Kaichu-reki (pocket calendar)
Meiji era change
The Meiji government, established in 1868 after a lengthy revolution, undertook to modernize the nation by introducing Western ways. This included replacing the old lunar calendar with the Gregorian version in November 1872 (5th year of Meiji), which took effect the following year and continues in use today.
Since there was little time for preparation and December 3 of the 5th year of Meiji became January 1 of 6th year, a great amount of confusion prevailed. Nevertheless, scholars like Fukuzawa Yukichi supported the more logical Gregorian calendar and published books intended to diffuse it.
While the calendar Japan uses today is the Gregorian type, it still includes words to express seasons, as found in the ancient lunisolar calendar. While the calendar is renewed every year, the history and culture of Japan are engraved in it.
6th year of Meiji (1873) Taiyo-reki (Gregorian carendar)
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