January is the first month of a year. The meaning of the word,
"the first" gives us a new and strong impression. Accordingly, the
arrival of a new year makes us feel ourselves refreshed. And also we
are conscious that all the things surrounding us come to be fresh. If
you refer to the "Saijiki", you will find many seasonal words about the
New Year listed in the book, and you can easily understand what I
have said in the above phrases. ("Saijiki" is a glossary of seasonal
terms for haiku composers with illustrative verses.)
It is supposed that perhaps the Japanese people have respected all
the creations as to be pure and to be revived in the New Year, and
have made up their mind to start their own new life with a new
resolution. Through pious praying, they strongly hope to be happy and
to lead a full life in the new year by clearing up the past which they
could not be satisfied with. For this reason we pay special attention to
some words by putting suffix of hajime, hatsu or zome, which mean
first, on the head or the end of the words of daily work or life, such
as Shigotohajime(first working), Kuwahajime(first farming), Ryohajime(first
fishing), Nuihajime(first sewing), Urihajime(first selling). We put hatsu
onto the words of nature, such as Hatsuhi(first Sun), Hatsuzora(first
sky), Hatsuhikari(first light of the Sun) so as to express our respect to
Nature of the New Year.
January is also the extremely cold season in
a year. Shoukan(less cold) fall on the 15th day after Touji(winter
solstice). It is on about January the 6th. Kan(cold season) continues
from Shoukan to the day before of Risshun(the first day of spring).
So we refer to the period of these 30 days as Kan-no-uchi(midwinter)
from Kan-no-iri(beginning of midwinter) to Kan-ake(the end of cold season).
Daikan(great cold) is on the 15th day, around January 20th
after Shoukan. It is by far the coldest through the year. It is wrong
to refer to these 15 days between Shoukan and Daikan as Shoukan.
Either Shoukan or Daikan shows only one day of the twenty four
designated seasonal days, so now let's learn correctly how to use each
The seasonal words of January are almost connected with Kan-no-uchi except those of the New Year. So we feel severe coldness from
the seasonal words even if they sound enjoyable and lovely, such as
Kazahana(snow flakes), Yukibare(clear sky between snowfall), Kangetsu
(cold moon), Fuyusoubi(winter rose), Kanbeni(rouge of winter). And also
we feel the coldness from the clear sound of seasonal words such as
sayuru(make clear) and iteru(freeze), which beautifully and accurately
express its feeling even if they are apart from their original meanings.