Exploring the traditional Japanese lucky calendar, Rokuyō

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you’re living in Japan and have a calendar at home, you may have noticed that there is some additional information under the date in black or red letters. This is the traditional Japanese six-day lunar calendar called Rokuyō (六曜, “six weekdays”). Each day on the Rokuyō has a special meaning of fortune, and still influences some aspects of Japanese life, for example events such as weddings or funerals.

Read on to learn more about the Rokuyō, the meaning of each day, and its role in modern Japan!

The history of the Rokuyō

The origins of Rokuyō in Japan can be traced back to the Kamakura period (1185-1333) when it was believed that certain days were more auspicious than others. The Rokuyō was likely introduced from China. However, the specifics around how and when are debated. The Rokuyō is sometimes also called the rokki (六輝, “six lights”) – a term that was coined to differentiate between the traditional and western calendar systems.

The Rokuyō has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries, but was not commonly used until the Edo period (1603 – 1868). During the westernization of Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912), usage of the Rokuyō was seen as an old superstition and banned by the government. This may have been one of the reasons why it’s not as widely followed today. However, many people still rely on it to schedule important events such as weddings, funerals, meetings and travel. 

Image of a person holding open a diary on the month of April

The six different categories of Rokuyō 

The six categories of Rokuyō are believed to be based on the Chinese theory of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), as well as yin and yang. The idea was that each day would be influenced by one of the five elements and either yin or yang, creating six distinct categories. 

The categories that the Rokuyō consists of are repeated in a specific order and reset with each lunar cycle. Counting from January 1st, the order is: 

Senshō 先勝

Tomobiki 友引

Senbu 先負

Butsumetsu 仏滅

Taian 大安

Shakkō 赤口

These rinse and repeat until the next lunar cycle.

Let’s look closer at the meaning and fortune for each day in the Rokuyō!

Senshō (先勝)

The kanji for Senshō means “first-win”. Because of this, there is a common phrase associated with the day, which is: “one must act early to win” (先んずれば即ち勝つ, sakin zureba sunawachi katsu). Senshō is also known as “Sakikachi” or “Sakigachi”.

Since you must act quickly in order to have success during Senshō, it is an ideal day to finish off urgent tasks. 

During Senshō it is said that one has good fortune in the morning and bad luck in the afternoon.

Tomobiki (友引)

The kanji for Tomobiki means “pulling friends”, and for this reason it is avoided to hold funerals on this day. The reason is that you might pull them to the other side of the grave. On the other hand, it is said to be a great day for weddings because you can share, or “pull”, your friends towards the feelings of love.

Tomobiki is a day with good luck during the morning and evening, but bad luck during noon.

Senbu (先負)

As the opposite of Senshō, the meaning in kanji of Senbu means “first-lose”. Senbu is a day where urgent business should be avoided and you are supposed to be patient and calm in all matters and not rush things. Senbu is also read as “Sakimake” or “Senpu”

During Senbu it is said that you have bad luck in the morning, and good in the afternoon.

Butsumetsu (仏滅)

Butsumetsu (仏 Buddha, 滅, annihilation) refers to the day that Buddha died. Therefore, it is best to avoid doing anything important during this day. As an interesting side note, since it’s unpopular to get married during Butsumetsu, you can sometimes get a discount if you arrange your wedding on this day. Furthermore, getting ill on this day means that the illness will last for a long time.

Butsumetsu is said to be unlucky throughout the whole day.

Taian (大安)

The kanji for Taian means great peace and is the luckiest day in the Rokuyō. Regardless if you are having a wedding or starting a business, no matter what undertaking you may have, it is destined to go well during this day.

During Taian you have great fortune all day.

Shakkō (赤口)

The kanji for the word means “red-mouth” and the red symbolizes either blood or fire. This means that one should be wary of fire, and the usage of knives and things that can hurt you. Furthermore, weddings should also be avoided during this day as the red is associated with blood – which results in death. Shakkō can also be read as “Shakku”.

Shakkō is a day which is unlucky throughout the whole day, except during noon.

Image of a pedestrian crossing with people walking across it

Rokuyō in Japanese society today

While Rokuyō may not be as widely followed today as it once was, it still holds a special place in Japanese culture. It is a reminder of the deep connections between the loyalty to traditions, spirituality, and daily life in Japan. Most Japanese don’t think too seriously about the Rokuyō, much like we tend to think around horoscopes or Friday the 13th. It’s something fun but nothing to be taken too seriously.

Despite this, the fact remains that many people choose to get married or have a funeral on days not associated with something bad according to the Rokuyō calendar. The reason for this is most likely a very Japanese way of showing “consideration” to other people. Someone may feel concerned about the choice of date after all. 

The Rokuyō is undoubtedly an important part of Japanese culture and will most likely stay as a cherished tradition for a long time to come.

If you are planning an important event and want to know the fortune of that day, you can do so by visiting this website: https://www.seiyaku.com/customs/rokuyo.php

That’s it for this time! Did you enjoy learning about the Japanese lucky calendar, Rokuyō? 

We do regular updates about all sorts of cultural things in Japan, as well as about learning the language and daily life here. If you are interested in more things like this, feel free to follow our blog!

Share this article

Go! Go! Nihon

Related articles

Japanese Culture
Japanese Culture