A typical Japanese New Year greeting goes like this: I humbly congratulate you in this early spring (Hatsu-haru no o-yorokobi o mōshiagemasu).
Seeing the Glass Half Full
Thinking of January as early spring seems a bit counterintuitive, but the logic is simple:
Light begins to overcome darkness. Slow at first, but picking up speed by the passing of every day.
The promise of coming of spring is unmistakably in the air. It takes just a little stretch to see the glass half-full: Why not call late-winter early-spring instead?
Solstice Marks Mid-winter
According to Japanese almanac winter begins on November 7th on a day called Risshū.
By the time winter solstice (called Tōji) arrives, which typically happens on December 22, winter is half over!
Tōji is a day of celebration filled with age-old traditions. One of the most popular traditions of Tōji is taking a hot yuzu (Japanese citron) bath, called Yuzu-Yu, to ward off evil and prevent from catching a cold.
Tōji marks mid-winter. Spring will arrive in Japan in about 6 weeks.
Spring in Early February
In the Japanese Almanac spring begins on February 4th on one of the most important days in the year day called Risshun.
It is also the time when whales embark on their great northward migration, pretty pink plum blossoms begin to appear, and elegant Japanese white-naped cranes arrive in large numbers where we are in south Kyushu.
By early February life gets on the move and signs of spring are everywhere.