Autumnal Equinox Day in Japan (Shūbun no hi – 秋分の日)

Hot weather, pool parties and summer vacation is over. However, you do not have to be sad because autumn is here! It is time to pull your sweaters out of the closet, sit on the couch with some hot tea or hot chocolate and the most fun of it all: it is almost Halloween!

Every year, at the end of september, there is an Autumnal Equinox day where people celebrate the changing seasons. On this day the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west. After the equinox day, days will be shorter and nights will be longer. Which marks the beginning of the colder seasons. This year the holiday fell on September 23.

In Japan the Autumnal Equinox day is a national holiday which is called shūbun no hi (秋分の日) in Japanese. On this day Japanese families also honor their ancestors and deceased relatives.

The origin of this holiday dates back to the beginning of Shintoism. At the beginning of Autumn, shinto followers would celebrate a holiday called Shuki Koreisai. On this day the Japanese honored the lives and spirits of past emperors. Later, this day was also used to honor their own deceased relatives and ancestors.

The buddhist holiday Higan is celebrated during the Equinox days (spring and autumn). This day is to honor the deceased relatives and ancestors but also to reflect on oneself. People believe that spirits will reach Nirvana on this day.

Both Shuki Koreisai and Higan were replaced by Shūbun no Hi. Although Shūbun no Hi is considered a national holiday, Shuki Koreisai and Higan are not because of their religious ties. Despite that, Shūbun no Hi still has strong ties with the other two holidays because like those, this holiday is also used to honor ancestors and deceased relatives.

Autumnal Equinox is celebrated in several ways by Japanese Families:

1. Visting the graves of their deceased relatives. People often come there to pay their respects and decorate and clean the gravestones and plot. Some also leave an offering of food or incense at the graces,

2. Many families visit temples and shrines during this day. There are many festivals organised and a lot of food sold in food stalls. A treat that is commonly eaten during these festivals on Autumnal Equinox day is Ohagi. A sweet rice cake covered with red bean paste jam. Some temples even have workshops to create the sweet.

3. Another common thing for families is to have a family gathering and spend the time together. Shūbun no Hi is supposed to be a happy day, which is why it important for families to have happy gatherings with lots of positive conversations and amazing food.

4. Many Japanese people also use this day to travel around and enjoy a short holiday. People often travel back to their hometown or travel around the country. This is why traffic and public transportation is very crowded during that time of the year.

As you can see is Shūbun no Hi a very nice day for families to enjoy their time together. I hope you also have enjoyed the season change or maybe even experienced this wonderful holiday!

Well, that’s it for now. I will see you in my next post!

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Kim