Risshun begins around February 4, and continues through Usu’i. It is considered the beginning of the year, and is thus the starting point for setting dates for seasonal feasts. Hachiju’uhachiya, for example, is deeply connected to tea practice, and is counted 88 days from Risshun. It falls right in the middle of To’uji and Shunbun. In terms of calendar, this is the day when spring begins. Plum blossoms start to open, and winter’s icy grip gradually loosens.
Usu’i generally begins around February 19, or 15 days after Risshun, and continues through Ke’ichitsu. Usu’i mean that precipitation turns from snow to rain, and ice melts into water. Tender greens are sprouting. But the “real” arrival of spring is still sometime away. Nature inches toward spring by repeating sankan shi’on (三寒四温)*.
*It is cold for three days, followed by warms days for about four days.
Tsutusjawan keeps tea warm, and warms the hands when handling it as well. February is an ideal time to use it. Shiborichakin is practiced out of consideration for guests to warm chawan thoroughly. Utensils with plum blossom motifs are often seen too.
Originally posted on February 6, 2015