The exact meaning of ‘Fumizuki’ is somewhat obscure. Some think that in the lazy days of midsummer, between the planting and harvesting seasons, people had time to write and read letters and poetry. Another theory is that the month was originally ‘Fumuzuki’ which means ‘swollen month’, referring to the swelling rice grains in the fields. This may be another case of ‘Ateji’ distorting the meaning of the name.
July is represented by the ‘Hagi’ (Bush Clover) and ‘Inoshishi’ (wild Boar). The Bush Clover is related to the Pea plant, and usually blooms in July through October. Wild Boars are said to like to nest, or sleep, in the Bush Clover. Wild boars are one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, and are symbols of bravery and affection. However, to villagers in the mountains the boars can be dangerous pests that destroy crops and gardens.
As followers of Buddhism, the Japanese tended not to eat the meat of four legged animals. Fish and birds were acceptable meats to eat. This accounts for some of the unusual classifications of animals in Edo period Japan. Frogs and Lizards were classified as insects, and Rabbits were considered Birds. Accordingly, the wild Boar is sometimes referred to as ‘Yamakujira’ or mountain-Whale, which made it a Fish.
Sometimes the meat of wild Boar was called ‘Botan’ (Peony). The meat of Deer was called ‘Momiji’ (Maple) and that of the Horse was ‘Sakura’ (Cherry blossoms). In this way the pious Buddhists could pretend to eat as vegetarians.