The weather is typically the stuff of banal small talk. But in the case of 72 Seasons, it becomes a wholeheartedly engaging–and nearly poetic–topic. The app uses the Japanese lunar calendar to subdivide the year into 72 microseasons ranging from “The First Peach Blossoms,” to “The Maple and the Ivy Turn Yellow,” and explains the cultural significance of each one.
While we’re all familiar with spring, summer, autumn, and winter, the actual seasons we experience aren’t as discrete—it’s a gradual transition between each one rather than a hard stop and start. To mark the passing of time and understand the subtle nuances throughout the year, ancient East Asian cultures created calendars based on the sun and moon. While the Chinese calendar has 24 seasons, the Japanese calendar deconstructs it even further into 72 seasons that are roughly five days long, each with its own name.
But it took the Utsukushii Kurashikata Institute—a creative group that explores Japanese history and culture—to reinterpret the calendar for contemporary audiences, filling a gorgeous “weather” app called 72 Seasons with illustrations, poems, photographs, and factoids about the ancient microseasons.
The contrast between the microseason app and conventional weather apps is glaring. This whole week, I’ve been checking the default iOS Weather app while harboring a sense of doom about impending frigid temps. All I see are a string of numbers and a few puny icons. But upon opening 72 Seasons, I learn that this particular microseason is called “First Spring,” which runs from February 9–13, and signifies that cold weather has peaked and is slowly warming up. In Japan, at least, nightingales should be descending from the mountains—where they spend winter—and begin to tweet their songs. Swiping to the next page reveals a haiku about “yokan,” meaning the lingering cold. Next is a passage about surf clams, a type of sushi consumed around this time, followed by information and photographs of seasonal fruits (the Iyokan citrus) and vegetables (mustard spinach).
Once the microseason concludes, the app automatically refreshes. Unfortunately, users can’t see the entire year at once, though you can see what season is coming up. I’m eagerly awaiting the story behind “First Spring 3: Fish Rise from the Ice.”