October 23 is a special date at Iwaya-Iwakage. It is 60 days before the winter solstice, and it marks the beginning of the winter observation period. As usual, we were concerned about the weather because five days before the 23rd we were still having rainy and cloudy skies. We were cheered when 10/19 dawned bright and clear. Inside Iwaya-Iwakage, Shiho Tokuda is showing us the Sekimen stone which will be the surface on which the spotlight will shine. Amazingly, the Sekimen is actually not separate from Stone F; it is sculpted out of the same rock! Its forward face, although buried deep underground, is parallel to the 40-degree face of Stone F. You can glimpse a bit of that face in the space beneath Sekimen in some of the spotlight photos.
In the next photo, Ms. Tokuda is pointing to the triangular spotlight which, in four days, will illuminate the rectangular face of Sekimen. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?
The exterior shot shows the interplay between Stones F and E which will form the shape of the spotlight. The complicated contour of Stone E is what, in part, causes the shape of the spotlight to change depending on the position of the sun.
The next day, we stop by the Solar Calendar Simulator building. From the south side, we see the slits that simulate the gaps of the megaliths that allow sunlight to form beams inside of Iwaya-Iwakage. The bottom-most slit is, of course, for the winter solstice sun. Inside, there are five planks that are oriented to the direction of the sun on five special dates of the year. From left to right, the directions correspond to the sun’s elevation on 6/21 (summer solstice), 8/20 (sixty days after summer solstice), 9/23 (autumn equinox), 10/23 (sixty days before winter solstice), and 12/22 (winter solstice). Of course, the sun reverses its path and will be at the 10/23 position again on 2/19, at the equinox position again on 3/21, and at the 8/20 position on 4/22, before arriving at summer solstice once again. See Basic Calendar chart on page 21 of the Guidebook, previous post.
The sun’s beam is shining on the bottom of 10/23 screen (because it is still three days before the 23rd). You can see it better in the closeup photo.
Next, we show the spotlight on the real Sekimen at 12:50 on 10/20. See how the actual spotlight is low on the stone as well as on the simulated stone. We also show you the gap through which the sunbeam enters, and it is evident that the “roof” formed by Stone F is not resting on Stone E. This is another amazing feature of the megalith arrangement.
The next two days were again cloudy, and on 10/23 there were clouds in the sky. The sun broke through the clouds intermittently, and we were delighted that we could obtain these three photos at 12:46, 12:48, and 12:54.
We dub the sixty-day period before the winter solstice, Early Winter. Our spotlight observations announced that Early Winter has officially begun!