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Four seasons or five? May 27, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I’ve recently discovered that in Japan, there are five seasons, not four: spring, summer, late summer, fall, and winter.

For those of us who garden and cook seasonally, this makes so much sense. Late summer is the harvest season for so many vegetables and fruits: late-ripening corn and tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, melons, grapes, plums, sweet potatoes, onions, beans, and so much more. It’s prime pickling and canning season.

Fall is the time of harvest for crops like winter squash and pumpkins, apples, pears, persimmons, popcorn, garlic, Brussels sprouts, and a second crop of greens like spinach, kale, collards, and winter lettuce. It’s not the same as late summer, which is not at all the same as true summer.

The difference between all these seasons makes me wonder why we in the West settled on four seasons rather than five. Any thoughts?

                ‘Til next time,




1. Jennie - May 27, 2012

Around here, fall is really short… sometimes it barely even counts as a season, going straight from summer to winter. Late summer still makes an appearance, though – maybe it should be our fourth season instead of fall!

Oh, no, Jennie! Fall is my very favorite season, the reason I can’t bear to leave our not-so-temperate climate in favor of one with weather and temperatures I’d so much prefer (low humidity, sunny skies and highs in the high 60s/low 70s year-round). I hope you at least get to enjoy some blazing foliage before your summer changes to winter!

2. Frater Zee - May 28, 2012

As to “why four” seasons… Archeoastronomy !! The Sumerians and other ancients observed four striking astronomical regularities every year — spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox, winter solstice). These subdivide the year into four equal parts, and are more regular than any other natural phenomenon (that ancients could observe). So these events became markers to regulate agriculture, each one marking the start of a “season” (as we know them today). Ancient Almanacs (note Arabic root) would (I’m guessing) have given instructions such as “plant millet X days after Spring Equinox”.

Now I wonder… How do the four “cardinal points” (equinoxes and solstices) appear in the five-season Japanese calendar you mention ?? Does Richard Saunders know how Japanese almanacs are constructed ??

Also notable… Chinese archaeo-chemistry (a.k.a. alchemy) recognizes FIVE primal elements — “metal” bing the fifth (quint-essence), in addition to the classical FOUR elements (fire, earth, air, water) of westen (Egyptian) alchemy, which (in classical astrology) are said to correspond directly to the four seasons.

So I bet you a dozen zucchinis and a pumpkin that the Japanese and Chinese systems of five-ness — in seasons, astrology, alchemy (and maybe also bioenergy medicine, CTM, Reiki) — are deeply related. Cheers.

Thank you, Frater Zee! This is most illuminating! I think the five-ness is indeed integral, though it didn’t hit me until you mentioned it. I’ll suggest that Richard Saunders get on this right away. In the meantime, er, please hold the zucchinis!

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