Reader Collection > Exhibitions > Flowers and Birds of the Twelve Months in Japanese Printed Art















The activities of plants and birds living in northern regions such as Japan are distinctly seasonal. For example, most flowers open sometime during spring or summer months and fruits ripen in the autumn. Many songbirds spend only part of the year in Japan, emigrating temporarily to avoid the coldest months. These seasonal events occur at more or less the same time every year so when the Japanese think of a particular seasonal event (e.g., cherry trees flowering in Tokyo) they may also think of a particular month of year (e.g., March). Some Japanese artists have used the association between the seasonal activity of a certain plant and (or) bird and a particular month of the year as the theme for their artwork. The following three examples of this artwork, chosen from the Reader Collection of Japanese Art, are included in this virtual exhibition:


Pictures 1-6

Calendar for 1912 published by the Shimbi Shoin Company with bi-monthly listings of days of the week accompanied by 115 x 205 mm woodblock-printed drawings of flowers and (or) birds associated with those months in Japan.


Pictures 7-18

Flowers and Birds of the Twelve Months by Sanpo Shuku, published in 1976. The twelve 355 x 480 mm lithographs depict flowers and (or) birds associated with the months of January through December.


Pictures 19-30

The Flowers and Birds of the Oriental Year by Tōshi Yoshida, published in 1982. The twelve 195 x 255 woodblock prints show flowers and (or) birds associated with the months of January through December.


   For each of the thirty pictures the month(s) of the year is given along with flower and (or) bird names.










1   January and February – Plum (Prunus mume) and Japanese bush-warbler (Cettia diphone)



2   March and April – Cherry (Prunus sp.), rape (Brassica napus) and green peafowl (Pavo muticus)











3   May and June – Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda), torch azalea (Rhododendron kaempferi) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)



4   July and August – Sacred lotus

(Nelumbo nucifera) and common kingfisher

 (Alcedo atthis)












5   September and October – Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and rock dove (Columba livia)



6   November and December – Large-billed crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)












7   January – Plum (Prunus mume) and rock dove (Columba livia)



8   February – Bunchflower daffodil (Narcissus tazetta) and white wagtail (Motacilla alba)











9   March – Camellia (Camellia japonica) and Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus)



10   April – Purple magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora) and azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyana)











11   May – Japanese iris (Iris ensata) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)




12   June– Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) and blue-and-white flycatcher (Cyanoptila cyanomelana)











13   July - Showy Japanese lily (Lilium speciosum) and emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica)



14   August – common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)












15   September – Painter’s palette (Persicaria filiformis) and Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica)



16   October – Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) and varied tit (Sittiparus varius)












17   November – Greater-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)




18   December – Sasanqua camellia  (Camellia sasanqua) and brown-eared bulbul (Ixos amaurotis)











19   January – Pine (Pinus sp.) and Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)



20   February – Plum (Prunus mume) and Japanese bush-warbler (Cettia diphone)











21   March – Weeping forsythia (Forsythia suspensa) and red-flanked bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus)



22   April – Cherry (Prunus sp.) and Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus)












23   May – Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) and Siberian stonechat (Saxicola maurus)   



24   June – Japanese azalea (Rhododendron japonicum) and Japanese paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata)











25   July – Birch (Betula sp.) and Japanese robin (Erithacus akahige)




26   August – Rose-of-sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides)












27    September – Lespedeza (Lespedeza sp.) and white-cheeked starling (Sturnus cineraceus)




28   October – Threeleaf akebia (Akebia trifoliata) and Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius)












29   November – Linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) and varied tit (Sittiparus varius)




30   December – Sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua) and Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)






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