The Nipponese Year

The following provides a guideline to the seasons and weather of Nippon. Sample temperatures and rainfall amounts given approximate conditions prevailing across most of Honshu island. Temperatures are generally warmer in the south (Kyushu rarely seeing sub-freezing weather) and colder in the north (Ezo experiences freezing temperatures well into spring and early in fall).

Except in winter the north is generally drier than the rest of Nippon, especially the very humid Pacific coast regions. More snow is seen in the north and along the Japan Sea coast. Precipitation is generally longer and heavier in the rainy seasons. Note that Nipponese seasons area of unequal length.

Cycle of Years

Nipponese measure the passing of years in two different ways. First, years are grouped into nengo, or eras. A new nengo begins when a new emperor is enthroned or at imperial decree to mark an event of great significance. Second, the years follow a cycle of twelve, with each year named after the animals of the zodiac. The 12-year cycle is part of a 60-year cycle. The 12-year cycles go through each of the five elements (fire, water, air, earth, and void) to complete a 60-year cycle.

Cycle of Hours

Nipponese days are divided into twelve equal intervals called toki or "hours." Like years, toki are named after the animals of the zodiac. Each toki was divided equally in two, thus creating the "greater" and "lesser" hours of a given animal.

Animals of the Zodiac

 animal  start of toki  animal   start of toki 
 Rat  11 pm Horse  11 am
 Ox   1 am Goat   1 pm
 Tiger   3 am Monkey   3 pm
 Hare   5 am Rooster  5 pm
 Dragon   7 am Dog   7 pm
 Serpent  9 am Boar   9 pm