Rokuyo (6 days of the Buddhist calendar) (六曜)

Rokuyo refers to one of rekichu (various information recorded in the almanac) and has the six kinds such as sakigachi (The day on which bold actions are supposed to turn out well), tomobiki (The day currently believed to pull a friend by superstition), sakimake (The day on which it is supposed to be better to avoid disputes and hurried actions), butsumetsu (Buddha's death or unlucky day), taian (The most auspicious day in the six-day Buddhist calendar) and shakko (The day of great misfortune).

In Japan, rokuyo is one of the most famous rekichu for the calendar and is written in ordinary calendars and notebooks. Now in Japan, rokuyo has a strong influence mainly on ceremonial occasions, for example, it is better to have a wedding on taian and to avoid a funeral on tomobiki.

It is also called rokki or sukuyo (astrology), but these are the names created after the Meiji period to avoid confusion with shichiyoreki (calendar of the seven luminaries).


Rokuyo is said to have been born in China, but it is totally unknown when it was established as a calendar. It is also called Komei rokuyo star and was invented by Zhuge Liang, who, a popular belief says, made strategies using rokuyo, but it is doubtful that there existed rokuyo in the Three Kingdoms period (of Chinese history) and according to an established theory, it is a far-fetched story created by after generations. And one theory says that it was made by Ri junho during the Tang dynasty, but it is also uncertain.

Rokuyo was originally used as a unit for distinguishing each day by stars, where one month (calendar) (≒30 days) was divided into five equal parts and six days were regarded as a cycle (30÷5= 6). It is considered to have been used like shichiyo or shun (one of three equal parts in a month) (unit).

It is considered to be from the end of the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period that rokuyo was introduced from China to Japan. The name, interpretation and order have been bit by bit changed and now all the names, except for shakko, have been changed. Rokuyo became its present form during the early nineteenth century.

It began to be secretly described in a folk calendar from the end of the Edo period. During the Meiji period, rekichu with fortune was regarded as a superstition and banned by the government, but only rokuyo was considered not to be a kind of superstition and continued to be described. For this reason, it became even more popular and led to a runaway trend after the World War II. Among various rekichu, it was a new one, but it spread across modern Japan.

The unique fortunes and the good or bad omens are assigned to each rokuyo. They are thought to have originally begun to be used among prowlers or gamblers in gambling parlors because many of them are concerned with games and these people 'believed in omens'. For this reason, even now, they are listed with the dateline in forecast papers for publicly-owned derbies.

It has been widely used in ordinary calendars, but has not been used in calendars made by public institutions like government and some public institutions provide administrative guidance to order not to list it. It is because they are groundless superstitions and to avoid needless confusion.

Many words which seem to be associated with butsuji (Buddhist memorial service) are used, such as butsumetsu or tomobiki, but, in Buddhism, Shaka (Buddha) have banned fortune-telling. And in Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism), Shinran preached in Wasan (Japanese hymns) that 'it is not good to choose the days' fortune,' and thus, in general, superstition or popular belief are denied and especially tabooed. Therefore, the reason why there are many words which have no relation with Buddhism but seems to have a relation with butsuji is just phonetic equivalents.

Some of human-rights group aggressively ask for the abolishment of rokuyo, saying 'to believe superstitions like rokuyo leads to discrimination.'
There was an incident in which Otsu city made personal day planners for the year 2005 with rokuyo, but they were recalled because of the protest from human-rights group and were totally discarded.


Rokuyo repeats in the order of sakigachi => tomobiki => sakimake => butsumetsu => taian => shakko, and the rokuyo of the day 1 of every month in the old lunisolar calendar is fixed as follows.

Thus in the old lunisolar calendar, rokuyo is fixed to the dates and the months. As a definition, if the sum of the number of month and the number of date in the old lunisolar calendar are multiples of six, then it is taian. But in New calendar (solar calendar), the regularly cycling rokuyo suddenly discontinues one day, or rokuyo on the same date differs depending on the year or month. This gives a mysterious aura to rokuyo and is one of the reasons for the popularity.

About each rokuyo

At present, there are sakigachi, tomobiki, sakimake, butsumetsu, taian and shakko, but formerly, as mentioned before, all the names except for shakko have been changed. It is said that rokuyo once repeated in the order of sokukichi (即吉) => tomobiki (共引)=> shukichi (周吉) => kyomo (虚亡) => taian (泰安) => shakko (as for the names, there are other theories). The detailed explanations for each rokuyo are as follows.


It means, 'First come, first served.'
Formerly, it was written as '速喜' or '即吉.'
It is said to be good to hurry up in all respects.

It is said, 'it is good in the morning, but it is bad from 2 pm to 6 pm' on sakigachi days.

It is read as 'sensho,' 'senkachi,' 'sakigachi,' 'sakikachi' and so on.


It means 'drawing a friend when in bad.'
Once it was said that 'the day should be known to end in a stalemate,' and was said to be the day when all the games end in a draw, that is, 'tomobiki' (both sides end in a draw) and it did not have the present-day meaning. In Onmyodo (way of Yin and Yang; occult divination system based on the Taoist theory of the five elements), there is 'the tomobiki day' when, if something is done in one direction on the day, a harm will be brought to a friend, which is thought to have been confused with rokuyo's tomobiki.

It is said that 'the morning is good, the afternoon is bad and the evening is excellent. However, funerals should be avoided' on tomobiki days.

There is a superstition that if a funeral or a memorial service (a Buddhist service) is done on a tomobiki day, a friend is drawn to the other world (= die), and in some areas crematories are closed on tomobiki days. However, rokuyo does not have a relation with Buddhism and thus, even on tomobiki day, funerals are done in a religious school (Jodo Shinshu). The autonomous bodies, which abolish the tomobiki closing of crematories, have increased. As for auspicious occasion, on the contrary, some send Hikidemono gifts of wedding reception banquet in the sense of 'delivering a share of happiness'.

The reading 'tomobiki' has become common, but its root is in '留引' (yuin), a Chinese word meaning 'holding back', whose sound resembles '友引' (yuin) meaning 'drawing a friend' and whose reading in kun-yomi (Japanese reading of character) is 'tomobiki', thus the roots has no relation with 'drawing a friend.'


It means 'The first to act is the first to lose.'
Once it was written as '小吉' and '周吉' and regarded as a Kitsujitsu (lucky day), but, according to the meaning of the Chinese characters used for sakimake, it has been interpreted as the present meaning. It is considered that it is better to keep quiet for everything and it should be avoided to do games or anything urgent on sakimake days.

It is also said, 'the morning is bad, the afternoon is good.'

It is also read as 'senbu,' 'senpu,' 'senmake,' 'sakimake.'


It means 'the extremely bad day when even Buddha perishes.'
It was originally called 'kumo' or 'kyomo' (both meaning 'existing as if nothing exists') but was eventually interpreted as emptiness of everything and came to be called '物滅' (death of everything) (butsumetsu) and recently the letter '佛(仏)' (Buddha) (butsu) was applied instead of 物 (things) (butsu).

The day is thought to be the worst day in rokuyo and celebrations like wedding are to be avoided on that day as customs. Few people hold a wedding on that day. So there are wedding halls which give special rates on butsumetsu days.
The other rokuyo have several readings, but butsumetsu is read only as 'butsumetsu.'

It is often regarded as the day when Buddha died because of the meaning of the Chinese characters used for butsumetsu, but it has no relation with Buddhism as mentioned before. February 15 is considered to have been the day of Buddha's death (the old lunisolar calendar), but it is accidental that the day is always butsumetsu in the old lunisolar calendar.

It is also said 'it is better to refrain from everything and if you get sick, it hangs on, but it is good to hold butsuji' on the day.

Also, if "物滅" (butsumetsu) is applied, it means 'things (物) collapse (滅) once and things start anew,' and some interpret the day is better than 'taian' to start things.


It means 'very good.'
It is considered as the best day in rokuyo. The day is said to be good for everything and there is no failure on the day and weddings in particular are often done on taian days. Also, selecting ministers for the Cabinet is done on taian days. However, there is a theory that fundamentally nothing should be done on the day. In that sense, it is roughly equivalent to the Sabbath in Christianity or Judaism.

It is commonly read as 'taian,' but is also read as 'daian.'
As it was once written as '泰安' (taian), the reading 'taian' is the original reading.


It originates from the bad day called 'shakuzetsunichi' in Onmyodo. It is the only name which has not been changed in rokuyo. A shakko day is good only during Uma-no-koku (from around 11 am to 1 pm) and except for that, it is said to be bad.

Shakko (赤口) has the letter '赤' (red) so that one must be careful of fire or edged tools.
That is, one must be careful of something which is associated with 'death.'

It is also read as 'shakko,' 'shakku,' 'jakku,' 'jakko,' 'sekiguchi.'

It is said to be 'a bad day to do anything, but it is good for a memorial service (a Buddhist service) and is good only during the noon.'

Rokuyo calculated from the old lunisolar calendar

Rokuyo' can be sought by the remainder of calculation. As for 'month' and 'date,' those of old lunisolar calendar are applied (see the followings).


The lunar New Year (January 1 [the old calendar]): 1+1=2, 2÷6=0, the remainder is 2 => sakigachi.

Old Hinamatsuri (the Doll's Festival) (March 3 [the old calendar]): 3+3=6, 6÷6=1, the remainder is 0 => taian.

Old Tango (one of the five seasonal festivals in the Edo period, which was taken place on the fifth of May): (May 5 [the old calendar]): 5+5=10, 10÷6=1, the remainder is 4 => sakimake.

Old Tanabata (one of the five seasonal festivals in the Edo period, which was taken place on the seventh of July) (July 7 [the old calendar]): 7+7=14, 14÷6=2, the remainder is 2 => sakigachi.

Jugoya (night of the full moon) (August 15 [the old calendar]): 8+15=23, 23÷6=3, the remainder is 5 => butsumetsu.

The thirteenth night (September 13 [the old calendar]): 9+13=22, 22÷6=3, the remainder is 4 => sakimake.

Old Shichi-go-san (a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children) (November 15 [the old calendar]): 11+15=26, 26÷6=4, the remainder is 2 => sakigachi.

The negative theory of rokuyo.

In the Dajokan fukoku (proclamation by the Grand Council of State) No. 337 (1872) published on November 9, 1872 at the occasion of changing the lunar calendar to the solar calendar, the following 'imperial edict to change the calendar system' was raised, saying 'Now the proposal for kaireki (changing of calendar) is described in the other document and the intention would be delivered.'
It argues that 'Our traditional calendar divides a year into 12 months according to the cycle of new moon and full moon and fits it into the position of the sun in the sky. Thus, we have to put a leap month every two or three years and there happens a climate lag before and after the intercalation, which finally causes errors in calculating the travel of celestial body. Especially, most of the annotations (rekichu) on middle and lower part of calendars are absurd and largely prevent the development of human intelligence,' and, on November 24 in the same year, the Dajokan fukoku was again issued and said, 'Now on issuing the solar calendar, the absurd annotations on middle and lower part of calendars will be totally forbidden including the lucky direction, unlucky direction, and the good or bad of the day, from 1873,' which, some insist, banned rokuyo.

Kenko YOSHIDA, Razan HAYASHI, Hakuga ARAI, Yukichi FUKUZAWA and so on left the articles whose subject was the denial of 'the fortune of the day.'

[Original Japanese]