Japanese 24 Seasons -Daikan-
I remember the winter in 2012, my very first winter in Berlin, it was -15C. The street was frozen, people were wearing heavy snow shoes even on the way to office works and the glasses were also frozen because of a little most from your breathing. Now in January, the temperature hasn’t gone down below 3C yet and I’m still waiting for “winter”, which I’m not sure if I will have it.
I grew up in Tokyo and every winter we would have enough snow to make snowmen or little hills in the school garden for sledges. I loved to wake up and see outside covered completely with snow. I knew it had snowed before looking outside because of this special quietness, as if the snow had wrapped all the sound on the earth. This silence would wake me up and those were my favourite mornings to wake up despite of the coldness in the house.
The word Daikan has brought me back my childhood memories. It’s written as 大=big and 寒=cold and is the coldest time of the year. This is one of the 24 Seasons (Nijushi-sekki) that Japanese and Chinese people tend to use to describe the detailed climate and starts on the 20th of January.
Usually it gets very cold after a week when Daikan period began which means it’ll be between the 26th and the 4th of February this year. This explains a lot that we often get lots of snow when the school entrance exams start, which is on the 1st of February. We will see this year though.
Daikan is the 24th of the 24 Seasons, this means the next season is spring, 立春 (Risshun). I will talk about this a little later.
Shinto rituals are seen during Daikan around Japan. Most of the time people in only fundoshi or thin white kimono get into the cold water. This is also done by people who practice martial arts. The purpose is to push yourself to the limit as well as to develop the strong body. This ritual is called Daikan Misogi (大寒みそぎ).
Daikan is also the time to start the brewing process for miso, soy sauce and sake. It is said that the water is the cleanest during the year because of the lowest temperature and it’s perfect for preserving the products. It must be hard to work in the cold with ice cold water. Thank you brewers.
The spring is around the corner. Keep yourself warm and enjoy the last bit of the winter.