Japanese 24 Seasons -Shunbun-
Although many of us are stuck indoor these days, it’s hard to notice that a day is longer and the sunlight is brighter and stronger. How are you dealing with the quarantine?
On the 20th of March was Shunbun no Hi (春分の日), Vernal Equinox Day and it’s a National holiday in Japan. The day is not fixed and depends on the year, it can be on the 21st. This is the sixth season of Nijushi Sekki (二十四節気/24 seasons) in Japan.
The origin of Shunbun:
In old time, the farmers would invited their ancestors spirits and wished for a rich harvest of the year on this day. This ritual became an official spring ceremony held by the Emperor and then common people started to hold a memorial service for the ancestors.
Then this ritual has become Higan (彼岸) or Ohigan (お彼岸). Before and after three days of Shunbun no Hi is Haru no Ohigan (春のお彼岸) and people visit their family tomb, clean it and offer flowers or some sweets the ancestors like.
Botamochi (ぼた餅) is the typical sweet for Higan. There is another Higan in autumn and it’s called Aki no Higan (秋の彼岸) and people eat ohagi (おはぎ) instead of botamochi. The difference is… nothing. They are the same but called differently depending on the season. In spring it’s called “bota”mochi because it’s the season for “botan" flower (牡丹/poeny) and in autumn it’s called o“hagi” because it’s the season for “hagi” (萩/bush clovers).
Events on Shunbun no Hi:
As this was the day to pray for the rich harvest of the year, there are Shinto ritual services in different part of Japan.
Here are some famous ones.
Aizu Higanjishi (Fukushima prefecture)
Bandai Shrine Fune-hiki Festival