八十八夜【Hachiju-hachi-ya (the eighty-eighth day after the beginning of spring)】

Japan used to use a lunar calendar that included some of the elements of the solar calendar. The old calendar divided one solar year into twenty-four portions of equal length in order to precisely indicate the seasons. The twenty-four dividing points between the seasons were known as nijushi-sekki in Japanese, and each of them had its own name. Risshun was one of those 24 dividing points. Risshun is still known as the first day of spring according to the old calendar. The old calendar set more dates and periods in addition to the 24 dividing points in order to appropriately indicate the change of seasons. These dates and periods that include setsubun, nyubai, nihyaku-toka, doyo, and higan were called zassetsu in Japanese. Hachiju-hachi-ya was one of those dates and periods. Hachiju-hachi-ya fell on the eighty-eighth day after the first day of spring (risshun). This date falls on the second of May according to the Gregorian calendar that is currently used. Spring is nearly over in Japan at this time of the year and summer is coming. It is a beautiful season full of fresh green leaves and clear skies. It is also the best season for picking tea.

日本でかつて使われていた旧暦は、太陽暦の要素を取り入れて作った太陰暦でした。旧暦では季節を正しく示すために1太陽年を24等分し、それぞれの等分点に名称が与えられていました。これらの等分点は二十四節気(にじゅうしせっき)と総称され、このうち春の始まりに当たる日を立春(りっしゅん)と呼びました。旧暦ではさらに季節の移り変わりを分かりやすく示す日として、節分・入梅・二百十日・土用・彼岸などの雑節(ざっせつ)が設けられていました。八十八夜はこれらの雑節の一つで、立春から数えて88日目に当たる日のことです。現行の太陽暦(グレゴリウス暦)では5月2日頃に当たり、日本では季節が春から夏に移り変わる時期です。この頃はさわやかな天候が続き、新緑が大変美しい時季です。また、この頃は茶摘みに適した時季でもあります。

Japanese farmers generally plant rice seedlings in seedbeds around hachiju-hachi-ya. The seedbeds for rice seedlings are called nawashiro in Japanese. They also sow their fields with many different farm products including vegetables and flowers in the same period. This is the standard period, and it is not appropriate for planting seedlings and sowing seeds in some parts of Japan because the climate varies in Japan from the north to the south.

多くの農家が八十八夜の前後に苗代に稲の苗を植えたり畑作物の種まきを行います。ただしこれはあくまでも目安にすぎず、南北に長い日本列島ではこれらの農作業を行う時期は地域によってかなり異なります。

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