The Lunisolar Calendar

A Sociology of Japanese Time

by Jessica Kennett Cork

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Synopsis

This study shall explore the social and political significance of the so-called kyureki, the Japanese lunisolar calendar that was abolished by the Meiji government in 1872. This calendar was the principal method of timekeeping in Japan from 604 to 1872, but has received little attention from English speaking scholars. This study argues that the study of the lunisolar calendar is essential to gaining a comprehensive understanding of pre-Meiji society and political history. Chapter 1 uses a detailed analysis of an actual lunisolar calendar coupled with passages from pre-Meiji historical and literary texts to show that the lunisolar calendar reflects the value pre-Meiji society placed on minute seasonal changes, the phases of the moon, and divination controlled by various directional deities. It shall also demonstrate how an understanding of the lunisolar calendar is vital to fully comprehend classical Japanese texts. Chapter 2 explores how calendar reform has been enacted throughout Japanese history to promote the values of new political regimes. Chapter 3 discusses the state of the lunisolar calendar in modern Japan, first analyzing how the calendar survived the Meiji government's attempt to obliterate it and the effect the Meiji calendar reform had on how the lunisolar calendar is understood today. It then discusses how the current revival of interest in the lunisolar calendar reflects the value modern society places on nostalgia for the past, which has arisen as part of the modernization process.

About The Author

Jessica Kennett Cork has been employed since 2002 as the Adviser for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta. She graduated with a B.A. in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an M.A. in Advanced Japanese Studies from the University of Sheffield in the U.K. She has also studied at International Christian University in Tokyo. Prior to joining the Consulate General of Japan, she worked for three years in Hiroshima, Japan as a Coordinator for International Relations on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program and for one year as a translator and interpreter at Kubota Manufacturing of America in Gainesville, GA.