ろくよう【六曜】


■ 六曜 is a traditional system for assigning one of six names to each day of the lunar calendar. Each of the six days is associated with particular beliefs about good or bad fortunes, and some events, particularly weddings and funerals, may be scheduled to fall on particular days.

□ This article is divided into the following four parts:

1. The days and their meanings
2. The significance of 六曜 in contemporary Japan
3. The history of 六曜
4. The assignment of 六曜 to particular days


1. The days and their meanings

The six days of 六曜, their various readings, and the beliefs associated with them are as follows.

先勝(せんしょう, せんかち, さきがち)
This day is believed to be auspicious for undertaking new business, filing lawsuits, and dealing with the government. The morning is said to be lucky and the afternoon unlucky.

友引(ともびき, ゆういん)
This day is said to be auspicious at all times except around noon. However, because the characters 友引 seem to mean 友(とも)を引(ひ)く, funerals and related events are usually not held on this day for they would seem to draw the living into the world of the dead.

先負(せんぷ, せんぶ, せんまけ, さきまけ)
This is supposed to be the opposite of 先勝 and thus a bad day for undertaking new business, filing lawsuits, or dealing with the government. The morning is unlucky and the afternoon lucky.

仏滅(ぶつめつ)
According to some references, this word was originally written 物滅(ぶつめつ) but the first character 物(ぶつ) was replaced with the homophone 仏, which means "Buddha." As a result, it is sometimes understood to mean "Buddha's death day," though most serious Buddhists do not seem to accept that interpretation. The day is regarded by many as entirely unlucky. Most Japanese avoid holding weddings on 仏滅, and some also avoid moving their place of residence, opening new stores, or undertaking other major activities.

大安(たいあん, だいあん)
This is thought to be a particularly auspicious day and is often chosen for weddings. In fact, it can be difficult to schedule a wedding on a June Sunday that happens to be 大安. Lottery booths often display signs on 大安 to suggest to passersby that it would be a good day to buy a lottery ticket.

赤口(しゃっく, じゃっく, しゃっこう, じゃっこう, せきぐち)
This day is unlucky for all activities, with only the period around noon being auspicious. Some builders are said to avoid holding groundbreaking ceremonies or starting new construction on this day.

2. The significance of 六曜 in contemporary Japan

六曜 days are taken seriously by most Japanese only when scheduling certain major events, particularly weddings and funerals. Some wedding halls offer discounts for weddings held on 仏滅 because there is so little demand on those days, and others refuse to hold weddings at all then. Funerals and memorial services are also usually not held on 友引. Moving companies are less busy on 仏滅.

While anecdotal evidence suggests that some Japanese take all of the 六曜 very seriously and pay attention to them when going about their day-to-day activities, these attitudes are far from universal. The variety of attitudes toward 六曜 can be seen in the calendars and datebooks printed in Japan. While some indicate the 六曜 for each day, many indicate none at all and some show only 仏滅 and 大安 or only 仏滅, 大安, and 友引. Some newspapers indicate each day's 六曜 status near the weather report or with the sunrise and sunset times for that day, while others do not mention it at all.

When questioned about whether they believe in 六曜 and whether they would schedule a wedding or funeral around it, some Japanese say that, while they themselves do not believe the days have any special significance, they would hesitate to schedule a wedding on 仏滅, for example, out of fear of upsetting some of their guests. Perhaps this pragmatic approach, neither believing nor scoffing, is the most common among Japanese today.

3. The history of 六曜

六曜 as currently implemented in Japan is just one version of an old practice, called 暦注(れきちゅう), of assigning meanings to individual days. Besides good days and bad days, 暦注 systems have also marked holidays and ceremony days, planting and harvest days, etc.

The original 六曜 are said to have come from China around the 14th century, though the names of the days and the meanings assigned to them undergone many variations over the years. When the Western calendar was adopted by the Japanese government in 1873, 暦注 were banned. Though 暦注 continued to appear on unofficial calendars (called 御化け暦(おばけごよみ)), it wasn't until after the lifting of press restrictions following the end of the Second World War that 六曜 began appearing on widely published calendars.

4. The assignment of 六曜 to particular days

The days of the 六曜 basically follow the cycle 先勝・友引・先負・仏滅・大安・赤口. However, this cycle is interrupted periodically because the first days of particular months in the old lunar calendar are always assigned the same 六曜 day. The first and seventh months begin with 先勝, the second and eighth with 友引, the third and ninth with 先負, the fourth and tenth with 仏滅, the fifth and eleventh with 大安, and the sixth and twelfth with 赤口.


This entry was created by Tom Gally.


Created 2000-07-22.


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