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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
Nijūshi sekki
"The twenty-four seasonal divides (sekki)." Established to make an exact distinction between the year's changing seasons, the nijūshi sekki constitute a calendar divided into twenty-four points beginning with risshun ("the beginning of spring") and ending with daikan ("the coldest season"). The duration from one sekki to the next was approximately fifteen days. Originally, it was the calendar used in China since mid-fifth century, and came into use in Japan as the genkareki calendar in 692 during Emperor Jitō's reign. The nijūshi sekki became a convenient way to distinguish the changing of seasons and, as a result, various folk customs came to be held on these days. Both within the imperial court and among the populace alike, a variety of religious events developed on these seasonal divides, especially on setsubun (the day prior to risshun), the vernal equinox, the autumnal equinox, and the winter solstice. Until the late Edo period the seasonal divides were measured as twenty-four equal divisions of the lunar-year (by a method known as heikihō, jōkihō, or kōkihō) when, in 1843, they became measured as twenty-four equal divisions of the sun's ecliptic path (a method known as teikihō, jikkihō). Because the former system was based on a twenty-eight day lunar phase month and a lunar year fell several days short of the three hundred sixty-five day solar year, an intercalary month was required once every two or three years. Because in the latter method, the ecliptic cycle of the sun is divided into twenty-four equal parts, the yearly disparity is extremely small. Today, the day before risshun is regarded as a special holiday known as setsubun ("change of season"), but originally the days before rikka ("beginning of summer"), risshū ("beginning of autumn") and rittō ("beginning of winter") each also constituted a setsubun. Since risshun was considered the beginning of the new calendar year, however, the risshun setsubun became regarded as especially important, which is why they have become virtually synonymous. Each of the twenty four seasons falling between the twenty-four sekki is further divided into three equal parts, the seventy-two . However, these approximately five-day units tended to be too short for any practical use.

— Inoue Nobutaka
List of Nijūshi sekki


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