Atsusa samusa mo Higan made – Japanese saying
Everywhere in Japan, maybe not in Hokkaido quite yet, people are talking about sakura (桜) and spring. Of course, we are officially in spring since Shunbun no Hi (春分の日), 21st of March and many Japanese people had a long weekend. The air suddenly softens and the breeze cheers you up instead of trying to beat you.
This is exactly what ancient Japanese people said, "Atsusa samusa mo Higan made (暑さ寒さも彼岸まで)" means hot and cold only lasts until Higan. There are two Higan in a year, in spring and in autumn and it´s a week period of time. Shunbun no Hi and Shuubun no Hi (秋分の日, 23rd of September) are right in the middle of Higan. And it´s true, as soon as Higan ends, in case of spring, the air gets warmer and in autumn, cold and dry wind starts to blow. My old fashion father would say to me every year by seeing me moaning over too cold or too hot weather, "Atsusa samusa mo Higan made". I would laugh about it then every year, it made me surprise how accurate it was.
Shunbun no Hi is one of Nijuushi Sekki (24節気), which is 24 phases in traditional East Asian Lunisolar calendar that matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon. This is a national bank holiday as well as Shuubun no Hi.
Ohagi (お萩) is one of the typical food Japanese people eat during Higan. One of the ingredients, Azuki beans is believed to scar away bad spirits and this custom began during the Edo period (江戸時代, 1603-1868).
I recall Higan as a visit to cemetery. My father took me every year and showed me how to clean our ancestor´s tomb. We get a bucket of water from the main part of the temple and went down the hill where our tomb was. Then get rid of weeds, crean the tombstone (our case was a wooden pole). Finally we placed flowers and sweet we bought on the way. My father told me that our ancestors would eat sweets but I always thought the monks would take them at the end of the day…
While all our neighbours´ tombs were made of stone, our tomb was made of wood. I don´t know how long it had been like that, being washed so much, our tomb was only a half left. The other… decayed. It looked quite spooky for a child and I always thought the ancestor´s ghost would come out of the broken tomb.
It´s been a long time since I visited our cemetery. I wonder how much tomb is left by now. I should ask my mother about it.
Soon, we will hear Sakura (cherry blossom) news everyday from Japan. One of the prettiest season is coming.
More about Higan
More about Japanese saying